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Full text of "Weir of Hermiston; an unfinished romance"

THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



GIFT OF 



WEIR OF 
HERMISTON 

An Unfinished Romance by 

ROBERT LOUIS 

STEVENSON 




Copyright 1896 by 
STONE & KIMBALL 



Copyright 1896 by 
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 



J. S. Gushing & Co. Berwick & Smith 
Norwood Mass. TT.S.A. 



Coflee 
Library 



To 
MY WIFE 

/ saw rain falling and the rainbow drawn 
On Lammermuir. Hearkening I heard again 
In my precipitous city beaten bells 
Winnow the keen sea wind. And here afar, 
Intent on my own race and place, I wrote. 

Take tbou the writing : thine it is. For who 
Burnished the sword, blew on the drowsy coal, 
Held still the target higher, chary of praise 
And prodigal of counsel who but tbou ? 
So now, in the end, if this the least be good, 
If any deed be done, if any fire 
Burn in the imperfect page, the praise be thine. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 
DEDICATION ...... ill 

INTRODUCTORY ..... 3 

CHAP. 

I. LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR , . 5 

II. FATHER AND SON . . . -33 

III. IN THE MATTER OF THE HANGING OF 

DUNCAN JOPP . . . .45 

IV. OPINION OF THE BENCH . . .74 
V. WINTER ON THE MOORS : 

1. AT HERMISTON . . .92 

2. KIRSTIE .... 99 

3. A BORDER FAMILY . . .105 

VI. A LEAF FROM CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK . 137 
VII. ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES . . .185 

VIII. A NOCTURNAL VISIT . . . .217 

ix. AT THE WEAVER'S STONE . . .232 

EDITORIAL NOTE . . . . .243 

GLOSSARY OF SCOTTISH WORDS . . 26 1 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 



Introductory 

In the wild end of a moorland parish, far 
out of the sight of any house, there stands a 
cairn among the heather, and a little by east 
of it, in the going down of the .braeside, a 
monument with some verses half defaced. It 
was here that Claverhouse shot with his own 
hand the Praying Weaver of Balweary, and 
the chisel of Old Mortality has clinked on 
that lonely gravestone. Public and domestic 
history have thus marked with a bloody finger 
this hollow among the hills ; and since the 
Cameronian gave his life there, two hundred 
years ago, in a glorious folly, and without 
comprehension or regret, the silence of the 
moss has been broken once again by the re- 
port of firearms and the cry of the dying. 

The Deil's Hags was the old name. But 

the place is now called Francie's Cairn. For 

a while it was told that Francie walked. 

Aggie Hogg met him in the gloaming by the 

3 



4 INTRODUCTORY 

cairnside, and he spoke to her, with chatter- 
ing teeth, so that his words were lost. He 
pursued Rob Todd (if anyone could have be- 
lieved Robbie) for the space of half a mile 
with pitiful entreaties. But the age is one of 
incredulity ; these superstitious decorations 
speedily fell off; and the facts of the story 
itself, like the bones of a giant buried there 
and half dug up, survived, naked and imper- 
fect, in the memory of the scattered neigh- 
bours. To this day, of winter nights, when 
the sleet is on the window and the cattle are 
quiet in the byre, there will be told again, 
amid the silence of the young and the addi- 
tions and corrections of the old, the tale of 
the Justice-Clerk and of his son, young Her- 
miston, that vanished from men's knowledge; 
of the two Kirsties and the Four Black 
Brothers of the Cauldstaneslap ; and of Frank 
Innes, " the young fool advocate," that came 
into these moorland parts to find his destiny. 



Chapter I 

LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

The Lord Justice-Clerk was a stranger in 
that part of the country j but his lady wife 
was known there from a child, as her race 
had been before her. The old " riding Ruth- 
erfords of Hermiston," of whom she was the 
last descendant, had been famous men of yore, 
ill neighbours, ill subjects, and ill husbands 
to their wives though not their properties. 
Tales of them were rife for twenty miles 
about ; and their name was even printed in 
the page of our Scots histories, not always to 
their credit. One bit the dust at Flodden; 
one was hanged at his peel door by James 
the Fifth ; another fell dead in a carouse 
with Tom Dalyell ; while a fourth (and that 
was Jean's own father) died presiding at a 



6 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Hell-Fire Club, of which he was the foun- 
der. There were many heads shaken in 
Crossmichael at that judgment ; the more so 
as the man had a villainous reputation among 
high and low, and both with the godly and 
the worldly. At that very hour of his de- 
mise, he had ten going pleas before the ses- 
sion, eight of them oppressive. And the 
same doom extended even to his agents ; his 
grieve, that had been his right hand in many a 
left-hand business, being cast from his horse 
one night and drowned in a peat-hag on the 
Kye skairs ; and his very doer (although law- 
yers have long spoons) surviving him not 
long, and dying on a sudden in a bloody flux. 
In all these generations, while a male 
Rutherford was in the saddle with his lads, 
or brawling in a change-house, there would 
be always a white-faced wife immured at 
home in the old peel or the later mansion- 
house. It seemed this succession of mar- 
tyrs bided long, but took their vengeance in 
the end, and that was in the person of the 
last descendant, Jean. She bore the name 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 7 

of the Rutherfords, but she was the daugh- 
ter of their trembling wives. At the first 
she was not wholly without charm. Neigh- 
bours recalled in her, as a child, a strain of 
elfin wilfulness, gentle little mutinies, sad 
little gaieties, even a morning gleam of beauty 
that was not to be fulfilled. She withered 
in the growing, and (whether it was the sins 
of her sires or the sorrows of her mothers) 
came to her maturity depressed, and, as it 
were, defaced ; no blood of life in her, no 
grasp or gaiety ; pious, anxious, tender, tear- 
ful, and incompetent. 

It was a wonder to many that she had 
married seeming so wholly of the stuff that 
makes old maids. But chance cast her in 
the path of Adam Weir, then the new Lord- 
Advocate, a recognised, risen man, the con- 
queror of many obstacles, and thus late in 
the day beginning to think upon a wife. He 
was one who looked rather to obedience than 
beauty, yet it would seem he was struck with 
her at the first look. " Wha's she ? " he 
said, turning to his host ; and, when he had 
been told, "Ay," says he, " she looks mense- 



8 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

ful. She minds me " ; and then, after 

a pause (which some have been daring 
enough to set down to sentimental recollec- 
tions), " Is she releegious ? " he asked, and 
was shortly after, at his own request, pre- 
sented. The acquaintance, which it seems 
profane to call a courtship, was pursued with 
Mr. Weir's accustomed industry, and was 
long a legend, or rather a source of legends, 
in the Parliament House. He was described 
coming, rosy with much port, into the draw- 
ing-room, walking direct up to the lady, and 
assailing her with pleasantries, to which the 
embarrassed fair one responded, in what 
seemed a kind of agony, " Eh, Mr. Weir ! " 
or "O, Mr. Weir!" or "Keep me, Mr. 
Weir ! " On the very eve of their engage- 
ment it was related that one had drawn near 
to the tender couple, and had overheard the 
lady cry out, with the tones of one who 
talked for the sake of talking, " Keep me, 
Mr. Weir, and what became of him ? " and 
the profound accents of the suitor's reply, 
" Haangit, mem, haangit." The motives 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 9 

upon either side were much debated. Mr. 
Weir must have supposed his bride to be 
somehow suitable ; perhaps he belonged to 
that class of men who think a weak head the 
ornament of women an opinion invariably 
punished in this life. Her descent and her 
estate were beyond question. Her wayfaring 
ancestors and her litigious father had done 
well by Jean. There was ready money and 
there were broad acres, ready to fall wholly 
to the husband, to lend dignity to his de- 
scendants, and to himself a title, when he 
should be called upon the Bench. On the 
side of Jean there was perhaps some fascina- 
tion of curiosity as to this unknown male 
animal that approached her with the rough- 
ness of a ploughman and the aplomb of an 
advocate. Being so trenchantly opposed to all 
she knew, loved or understood, he may well 
have seemed to her the extreme, if scarcely 
the ideal, of his sex. And besides, he was an 
ill man to refuse. A little over forty at the 
period of his marriage, he looked already 
older, and to the force of manhood added the 
senatorial dignity of years ; it was, perhaps, 



io WEIR OF HERMISTON 

with an unreverend awe, but he was awful. 
The Bench, the Bar, and the most experi- 
enced and reluctant witness, bowed to his 
authority and why not Jeannie Rutherford ? 
The heresy about foolish women is always 
punished, I have said, and Lord Hermiston 
began to pay the penalty at once. His house 
in George Square was wretchedly ill-guided ; 
nothing answerable to the expense of main- 
tenance but the cellar, which was his own 
private care. When things went wrong at 
dinner, as they continually did, my lord 
would look up the table at his wife : " I 
think these broth would be better to swim in 
than to sup." Or else to the butler : 
" Here, M'Killop, awa' wi' this Raadical 
gigot tak' it to the French, man, and bring 
me some puddocks ! It seems rather a sore 
kind of a business that I should be all day in 
Court haanging Raadicals, and get nawthing 
to my denner." Of course this was but a 
manner of speaking, and he had never hanged 
a man for being a Radical in his life ; the 
law, of which he was the faithful minister, 
directing otherwise. And of course these 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR n 

growls were in the nature of pleasantry, but 
it was of a recondite sort ; and uttered as 
they were in his resounding voice, and com- 
mented on by that expression which they 
called in the Parliament House " Hermiston's 
hanging face " they struck mere dismay 
into the wife. She sat before him speechless 
and fluttering ; at each dish, as at a fresh 
ordeal, her eye hovered toward my lord's 
countenance and fell again ; if he but ate in 
silence, unspeakable relief was her portion ; 
if there were complaint, the world was 
darkened. She would seek out the cook, 
who was always her sister in the Lord. " O, 
my dear, this is the most dreidful thing that 
my lord can never be contented in his own 
house ! " she would begin ; and weep and 
pray with the cook ; and then the cook 
would pray with Mrs. Weir; and the next 
day's meal would never be a penny the 
better and the next cook (when she came) 
would be worse, if anything, but just as 
pious. It was often wondered that Lord 
Hermiston bore it as he did ; indeed he was 
a stoical old voluptuary, contented with sound 



12 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

wine and plenty of it. But there were mo- 
ments when he overflowed. Perhaps half a 
dozen times in the history of his married 
life " Here ! talc' it awa', and bring me a 
piece bread and kebbuck ! " he had exclaimed, 
with an appalling explosion of his voice and 
rare gestures. None thought to dispute or 
to make excuses ; the service was arrested ; 
Mrs. Weir sat at the head of the table 
whimpering without disguise ; and his lord- 
ship opposite munched his bread and cheese 
in ostentatious disregard. Once only, Mrs. 
Weir had ventured to appeal. He was pass- 
ing her chair on his way into the study. 

" O, Edom ! " she wailed, in a voice tragic 
with tears, and reaching out to him both hands, 
in one of which she held a sopping pocket- 
handkerchief. 

He paused and looked upon her with a 
face of wrath, into which there stole, as he 
looked, a twinkle of humour. 

" Noansense ! " he said. " You and your 
noansense ! What do I want with a Chris- 
tian faim'ly ? I want Christian broth ! Get 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 13 

me a lass that can plain boil a potato, if she 
was a whiire off the streets." And with these 
words, which echoed in her tender ears like 
blasphemy, he had passed on to his study and 
shut the door behind him. 

Such was the housewifery in George 
Square. It was better at Hermiston, where 
Kirstie Elliot, the sister of a neighbour- 
ing bonnet-laird, and an eighteenth cousin 
of the lady's, bore the charge of all, and kept 
a trim house and a good country table. 
Kirstie was a woman in a thousand, clean, 
capable, notable ; once a moorland Helen, 
and still comely as a blood horse and healthy 
as the hill wind. High in flesh and voice 
and colour, she ran the house with her whole 
intemperate soul, in a bustle, not without 
buffets. Scarce more pious than decency in 
those days required, she was the cause of 
many an anxious thought and many a tearful 
prayer to Mrs. Weir. Housekeeper and 
mistress renewed the parts of Martha and 
Mary ; and though with a pricking conscience, 
Mary reposed on Martha's strength as on a 



H WEIR OF HERMISTON 

rock. Even Lord Hermiston held Kirstie in 
a particular regard. There were few with 
whom he unbent so gladly, few whom he 
favoured with so many pleasantries. "Kirstie 
and me maun have our joke," he would de- 
clare, in high good-humour, as he buttered 
Kirstie's scones and she waited at table. A 
man who had no need either of love or of 
popularity, a keen reader of men and of events, 
there was perhaps only one truth for which 
he was quite unprepared : he would have been 
quite unprepared to learn that Kirstie hated 
him. He thought maid and master were 
well matched ; hard, handy, healthy, broad 
Scots folk, without a hair of nonsense to the 
pair of them. And the fact was that she 
made a goddess and an only child of the effete 
and tearful lady ; and even as she waited at 
table her hands would sometimes itch for my 
lord's ears. 

Thus, at least, when the family were at 
Hermiston, not only my lord, but Mrs. Weir 
too, enjoyed a holiday. Free from the 
dreadful looking-for of the miscarried dinner, 
she would mind her seam, read her piety 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR *5 

books, and take her walk (which was my 
lord's orders), sometimes by herself, some- 
times with Archie, the only child of that 
scarce natural union. The child was her 
next bond to life. Her frosted sentiment 
bloomed again, she breathed deep of life, 
she let loose her heart, in that society. The 
miracle of her motherhood was ever new to 
her. The sight of the little man at her skirt 
intoxicated her with the sense of power, and 
froze her with the consciousness of her re- 
sponsibility. She looked forward, and, see- 
ing him in fancy grow up and play his diverse 
part on the world's theatre, caught in her 
breath and lifted up her courage with a lively 
effort. It was only with the child that she 
forgot herself and was at moments natural ; 
yet it was only with the child that she had 
conceived and managed to pursue a scheme 
of conduct. Archie was to be a great man 
and a good ; a minister if possible, a saint 
for certain. She tried to engage his mind 
upon her favourite books, Rutherford's " Let- 
ters," Scougal's " Grace Abounding," and 
the like. It was a common practice of hers 



16 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

(and strange to remember now) that she 
would carry the child to the Deil's Hags, sit 
with him on the Praying Weaver's stone and 
talk of the Covenanters till their tears ran 
down. Her view of history was wholly art- 
less, a design in snow and ink ; upon the one 
side, tender innocents with psalms upon their 
lips ; upon the other, the persecutors, booted, 
bloody-minded, flushed with wine ; a suffer- 
ing Christ, a raging Beelzebub. Persecutor 
was a word that knocked upon the woman's 
heart ; it was her highest thought of wicked- 
ness, and the mark of it was on her house. 
Her great-great-grandfather had drawn the 
sword against the Lord's anointed on the field 
of Rullion Green, and breathed his last (tra- 
dition said) in the arms of the detestable 
Dalyell. Nor could she blind herself to this, 
that had they lived in these old days, Hermis- 
ton himself would have been numbered 
alongside of Bloody MacKenzie and the pol- 
itic Lauderdale and Rothes, in the band of 
God's immediate enemies. The sense of 
this moved her to the more fervor ; she had 
a voice for that name of persecutor that thrilled 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 17 

in the child's marrow ; and when one day 
the mob hooted and hissed them all in my 
lord's traveling carriage, and cried, "Down 
with the persecutor ! down with Hanging 
Hermiston ! " and mamma covered her eyes 
and wept, and papa let down the glass and 
looked out upon the rabble with his droll 
formidable face, bitter and smiling, as they 
said he sometimes looked when he gave 
sentence, Archie was for the moment too 
much amazed to be alarmed, but he had 
scarce got his mother by herself before his 
shrill voice was raised demanding an expla- 
nation ; why had they called papa a perse- 
cutor ? 

" Keep me, my precious ! " she exclaimed. 
" Keep me, my dear ! this is poleetical. Ye 
must never ask me anything poleetical, 
Erchie. Your faither is a great man, my 
dear, and it 's no for me or you to be judg- 
ing him. It would be telling us all if we 
behaved ourselves in our several stations the 
way your faither does in his high office ; and 
let me hear no more of any such disrespect- 
ful and undutiful questions ! No that you 



i8 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

meant to be undutiful, my lamb ; your 
mother kens that she kens it well, dearie!" 
and so slid off to safer topics, and left on the 
mind of the child an obscure but ineradic- 
able sense of something wrong. 

Mrs. Weir's philosophy of life was 
summed in one expression tenderness. In 
her view of the universe, which was all 
lighted up with a glow out of the doors of 
hell, good people must walk there in a kind 
of ecstasy of tenderness. The beasts and 
plants had no souls ; they were here but for 
a day, and let their day pass gently ! And as 
for the immortal men, on what black, down- 
ward path were many of them wending, and 
to what a horror of an immortality ! " Are 
not two sparrows," " Whosoever shall smite 
thee," " God sendeth His rain," " Judge not 
that ye be not judged" these texts made 
her body of divinity ; she put them on in 
the morning with her clothes and lay down 
to sleep with them at night ; they haunted 
her like a favourite air, they clung about her 
like a favourite perfume. Their minister 
was a marrowy expounder of the law, and 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 19 

my lord sat under him with relish ; but Mrs. 
Weir respected him from far off; heard him 
(like the cannon of a beleaguered city) use- 
fully booming outside on the dogmatic ram- 
parts ; and meanwhile, within and out of 
shot, dwelt in her private garden which she 
watered with grateful tears. It seems strange 
to say of this colourless and ineffectual 
woman, but she was a true enthusiast, and 
might have made the sunshine and the glory 
of a cloister. Perhaps none but Archie 
knew she could be eloquent ; perhaps none 
but he had seen her her colour raised, her 
hands clasped or quivering glow with 
gentle ardour. There is a corner of the 
policy of Hermiston, where you come sud- 
denly in view of the summit of Black Fell, 
sometimes like the mere grass top of a hill, 
sometimes (and this is her own expression) 
like a precious jewel in the heavens. On 
such days, upon the sudden view of it, her 
hand would tighten on the child's fingers, 
her voice rise like a song. " I to the hills !" 
she would repeat. "And O, Erchie, are nae 



20 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

these like the hills of Naphtali ? " and her 
easy tears would flow. 

Upon an impressionable child the effect of 
this continual and pretty accompaniment to 
life was deep. The woman's quietism and 
piety passed on to his different nature undi- 
minished ; but whereas in her it was a native 
sentiment, in him it was only an implanted 
dogma. Nature and the child's pugnacity at 
times revolted. A cad from the Potterrow 
once struck him in the mouth ; he struck 
back, the pair fought it out in the back stable 
lane towards the Meadows, and Archie re- 
turned with a considerable decline in the 
number of his front teeth, and unregener- 
ately boasting of the losses of the foe. It 
was a sore day for Mrs. Weir ; she wept 
and prayed over the infant backslider until 
my lord was due from court, and she must 
resume that air of tremulous composure with 
which she always greeted him. The judge 
was that day in an observant mood, and re- 
marked upon the absent teeth. 

" I am afraid Erchie will have been fecht- 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 21 

ing with some of they blagyard lads," said 
Mrs. Weir. 

My lord's voice rang out as it did seldom 
in the privacy of his own house. " I'll have 
nonn of that, sir ! " he cried. " Do you 
hear me ? nonn of that ! No son of mine 
shall be speldering in the glaur with any dirty 
raibble." 

The anxious mother was grateful for so 
much support ; she had even feared the con- 
trary. And that night when she put the 
child to bed " Now, my dear, ye see ! " she 
said, " I told you what your faither would 
think of it, if he heard ye had fallen into 
this dreidful sin ; and let you and me 
pray to God that ye may be keepit from 
the like temptation or stren'thened to resist 
it!" 

The womanly falsity of this was thrown 
away. Ice and iron cannot be welded; 
and the points of view of the Justice- 
Clerk and Mrs. Weir were not less unassim- 
ilable. The character and position of his 
-father had long been a stumbling-block to 



22 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Archie, and with every year of his age the 
difficulty grew more instant. The man was 
mostly silent ; when he spoke at all, it was 
to speak of the things of the world, always in 
a worldly spirit, often in language that the 
child had been schooled to think coarse, and 
sometimes with words that he knew to be 
sins in themselves. Tenderness was the 
first duty, and my lord was invariably harsh. 
God was love ; the name of my lord (to all 
who knew him) was fear. In the world, as 
schematised for Archie by his mother, the 
place was marked for such a creature. There 
were some whom it was good to pity and 
well (though very likely useless) to pray for; 
they were named reprobates, goats, God's 
enemies, brands for the burning ; and Archie 
tallied every mark of identification, and drew 
the inevitable private inference that the Lord 
Justice-Clerk was the chief of sinners. 

The mother's honesty was scarce com- 
plete. There was one influence she feared 
for the child and still secretly combated ; 
that was my lord's ; and half unconsciously, 
half in a wilful blindness, she continued to 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 23 

undermine her husband with his son. As 
long as Archie remained silent, she did so 
ruthlessly, with a single eye to heaven and 
the child's salvation ; but the day came when 
Archie spoke. It was 1801, and Archie was 
seven, and beyond his years for curiosity and 
logic, when he brought the case up openly. 
If judging were sinful and forbidden, how 
came papa to be a judge ? to have that sin 
for a trade ? to bear the name of it for a dis- 
tinction ? 

" I can't see it," said the little Rabbi, and 
wagged his head. 

Mrs. Weir abounded in commonplace re- 
plies. 

" No, I cannae see it," reiterated Archie. 
" And I'll tell you what, mamma, I don't 
think you and me's justifeed in staying with 
him." 

The woman awoke to remorse ; she saw 
herself disloyal to her man, her sovereign and 
bread-winner, in whom (with what she had of 
worldliness) she took a certain subdued pride. 
-She expatiated in reply on my lord's honour 
and greatness ; his useful services in this 



24 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

world of sorrow and wrong, and the place in 
which he stood, far above where babes and 
innocents could hope to see or criticise. But 
she had builded too well Archie had his an- 
swers pat : Were not babes and innocents the 
type of the kingdom of heaven ? Were not 
honour and greatness the badges of the world ? 
And at any rate, how about the mob that had 
once seethed about the carriage ? 

" It's all very fine," he concluded, "but in 
my opinion, papa has no right to be it. And 
it seems that's not the worst yet of it. It 
seems he's called 'the Hanging Judge' it 
seems he's crooool. I'll tell you what it is, 
mamma, there's a tex' borne in upon me : It 
were better for that man if a milestone were 
bound upon his back and him flung into the 
deepestmost pairts of the sea." 

" O, my lamb, ye must never say the like 
of that ! " she cried. " Ye're to honour 
faither and mother, dear, that your days may 
be long in the land. It's Atheists that cry 
out against him French Atheists, Erchie ! 
Ye would never surely even yourself down to 
be saying the same thing as French Atheists ? 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 25 

It would break my heart to think that of you. 
And O, Erchie, here are'na you setting up to 
judge ? And have ye no forgot God's plain 
command the First with Promise, dear ? 
Mind you upon the beam and the mote ! " 

Having thus carried the war into the 
enemy's camp, the terrified lady breathed 
again. And no doubt it is easy thus to circum- 
vent a child with catchwords, but it may be 
questioned how far it is effectual. An instinct 
in his breast detects the quibble, and a voice 
condemns it. He will instantly submit, 
privately hold the same opinion. For even in 
this simple and antique relation of the mother 
and the child, hypocrisies are multiplied. 

When the Court rose that year and the 
family returned to Hermiston, it was a com- 
mon remark in all the country that the lady 
was sore failed. She seemed to loose and 
seize again her touch with life, now sitting 
inert in a sort of durable bewilderment, anon 
waking to feverish and weak activity. She 
dawdled about the lasses at their work, look- 
ing stupidly on ; she fell to rummaging in 
old cabinets and presses, and desisted when 



26 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

half through ; she would begin remarks with 
an air of animation and drop them without 
a struggle. Her common appearance was of 
one who has forgotten something and is try- 
ing to remember ; and when she overhauled, 
one after another, the worthless and touching 
mementoes of her youth, she might have 
been seeking the clue to that lost thought. 
During this period she gave many gifts to 
the neighbours and house lassies, giving them 
with a manner of regret that embarrassed 
the recipients. 

The last night of all she was busy on 
some female work, and toiled upon it with so 
manifest and painful a devotion that my lord 
(who was not often curious) inquired as to 
its nature. 

She blushed to the eyes. " O, Edom, it's 
for you ! " she said. " It's slippers. I I 
hae never made ye any." 

" Ye daft auld wife ! " returned his lord- 
ship. "A bonny figure I would be, palmer- 
ing about in bauchles ! " 

The next day, at the hour of her walk, 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 27 

Kirstie interfered. Kirstie took this decay 
of her mistress very hard ; bore her a grudge, 
quarrelled with and railed upon her, the anx- 
iety of a genuine love wearing the disguise 
of temper. This day of all days she insisted 
disrespectfully, with rustic fury, that Mrs. 
Weir should stay at home. But, " No, no," 
she said, " it's my lord's orders," and set 
forth as usual. Archie was visible in the acre 
bog, engaged upon some childish enterprise, 
the instrument of which was mire ; and she 
stood and looked at him awhile like one 
about to call ; then thought otherwise, sighed, 
and shook her head, and proceeded on her 
rounds alone. The house lassies were at the 
burnside washing, and saw her pass with her 
loose, weary, dowdy gait. 

" She's a terrible feckless wife, the mis- 
tress ! " said the one. 

" Tut," said the other, " the wumman's 
seeck." 

" Weel, I canna see nae differ in her," re- 
turned the first. " A fiishionless quean, a 
feckless carline." 



28 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

The poor creature thus discussed rambled 
a while in the grounds without a purpose. 
Tides in her mind ebbed and flowed, and car- 
ried her to and fro like seaweed. She tried a 
path, paused, returned, and tried another ; 
questing, forgetting her quest ; the spirit 
of choice extinct in her bosom, or devoid 
of sequency. On a sudden, it appeared as 
though she had remembered, or had formed a 
resolution, wheeled about, returned with hur- 
ried steps, and appeared in the dining-room, 
where Kirstie was at the cleaning, like one 
charged with an important errand. 

" Kirstie ! " she began, and paused ; and 
then with conviction, " Mr. Weir isna 
speeritually minded, but he has been a good 
man to me." 

It was perhaps the first time since her 
husband's elevation that she had forgotten 
the handle to his name, of which the tender, 
inconsistent woman was not a little .rproud. 
And when Kirstie looked up at the speaker's 
face, she was aware of a change. 

" Godsake, what's the maitter wi' ye, 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 29 

mem ? " cried the housekeeper, starting from 
the rug. 

" I do not ken," answered her mistress, 
shaking her head. " But he is not speeritu- 
ally minded, my dear." 

" Here, sit down with ye ! Godsake, what 
ails the wife ? " cried Kirstie, and helped and 
forced her into my lord's own chair by the 
cheek of the hearth. 

"Keep me, what's this?" she gasped. 
" Kirstie, what's this ? I'm frich'ened." 

They were her last words. 

It was the lowering nightfall when my 
lord returned. He had the sunset in his back, 
all clouds and glory ; and before him, by the 
wayside, spied Kirstie Elliott waiting. She 
was dissolved in tears, and addressed him in 
the high, false note of barbarous mourning, 
such as still lingers modified among Scots 
heather. 

" The Lord peety ye, Hermiston ! the 
Lord prepare ye ! " she keened out. " Weary 
upon me, that I should have to tell it ! " 

He reined in his horse and looked upon 
her with the hanging face. 



30 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

" Has the French landit ? " cried he. 

" Man, man," she said, " is that a' ye 
can think of? The Lord prepare ye, the 
Lord comfort and support ye ! " 

" Is onybody deid ? " says his lordship. 
" It's no Erchie ? " 

" Bethankit, no ! " exclaimed the woman, 
startled into a more natural tone. " Na, na, 
it's no sae bad as that. It's the mistress, my 
lord ; she just fair flittit before my e'en. She 
just gi'ed a sab and was by with it. Eh, my 
bonny Miss Jeannie, that I mind sae weel ! " 
And forth again upon that pouring tide of 
lamentation in which women of her class ex- 
cel and overabound. 

Lord Hermiston sat in the saddle behold- 
ing her. Then he seemed to recover com- 
mand upon himself. 

" Weel, it's something of the suddenest," 
said he. " But she was a dwaibly body from 
the first." 

And he rode home at a precipitate amble 
with Kirstie at his horse's heels. 

Dressed as she was for her last walk, they 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 31 

had laid the dead lady on her bed. She was 
never interesting in life ; in death she was 
not impressive ; and as her husband stood 
before her, with his hands crossed behind 
his powerful back, that which he looked 
upon was the very image of the insignifi- 
cant. 

" Her and me were never cut out for one 
another," he remarked at last. " It was a 
daft-like marriage." And then, with a most 
unusual gentleness of tone, " Puir bitch," 
said he, " puir bitch ! " Then suddenly: 
" Where's Erchie ? " 

Kirstie had decoyed him to her room and 
given him "a jeely-piece." 

" Ye have some kind of gumption, too," 
observed the Judge, and considered his house- 
keeper grimly. " When all's said," he added, 
" I micht have done waur I micht have 
been marriet upon a skirling Jezebel like 
you ! " 

" There's naebody thinking of you, Her- 
miston ! " cried the offended woman. " We 
think of her that's out of her sorrows. And 
could she have done waur ? Tell me that, 



3 2 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Hermiston tell me that before her clay-cauld 
corp ! " 

" Weel, there's some of them gey an' ill 
to please," observed his lordship. 



Chapter II 

FATHER AND SON 

My Lord Justice-Clerk was known to 
many ; the man Adam Weir perhaps to none. 
He had nothing to explain or to conceal ; he 
sufficed wholly and silently to himself; and 
that part of our nature which goes out (too 
often with false coin) to acquire glory or love, 
seemed in him to be omitted. He did not try 
to be loved, he did not care to be ; it is prob- 
able the very thought of it was a stranger to 
his mind. He was an admired lawyer, a 
highly unpopular judge ; and he looked down 
upon those who were his inferiors in either 
distinction, who were lawyers of less grasp or 
judges not so much detested. In all the rest 
of his days and doings, not one trace of vanity 
appeared ; and he went on through life with 
a mechanical movement, as of the uncon- 
scious, that was almost august. 
33 



34 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

He saw little of his son, In the childish 
maladies with which the boy was troubled, he 
would make daily inquiries and daily pay him 
a visit, entering the sick-room with a facetious 
and appalling countenance, letting off a few 
perfunctory jests, and going again swiftly, to 
the patient's relief. Once, a court holiday 
falling opportunely, my lord had his carriage, 
and drove the child himself to Hermiston, the 
customary place of convalescence. It is con- 
ceivable he had been more than usually anx- 
ious, for that journey always remained in 
Archie's memory as a thing apart, his father 
having related to him from beginning to end, 
and with much detail, three authentic murder 
cases. Archie went the usual round of other 
Edinburgh boys, the high school and the col- 
lege ; and Hermiston looked on, or rather 
looked away, with scarce an affectation of 
interest in his progress. Daily, indeed, upon 
a signal after dinner, he was brought in, given 
nuts and a glass of port, regarded sardonically, 
sarcastically questioned. " Well, sir, and 
what have you donn with your book to-day ?" 
my lord might begin, and set him posers in 



FATHER AND SON 35 

law Latin. To a child just stumbling into 
Corderius, Papinian and Paul proved quite in- 
vincible. But papa had memory of no other. 
He was not harsh to the little scholar, having 
a vast fund of patience learned upon the 
bench, and was at no pains whether to con- 
ceal or to express his disappointment. "Well, 
ye have a long jaunt before ye yet !" he might 
observe, yawning, and fall back on his own 
thoughts (as like as not) until the time came 
for separation, and my lord would take the 
decanter and the glass, and be off to the back 
chamber looking on the Meadows, where he 
toiled on his cases till the hours were small. 
There was no " fuller man " on the Bench ; 
his memory was marvellous, though wholly 
legal ; if he had to " advise " extempore, none 
did it better; yet there was none who more 
earnestly prepared. As he thus watched in 
the night, or sat at table and forgot the pre- 
sence of his son, no doubt but he tasted 
deeply of recondite pleasures. To be wholly 
devoted to some intellectual exercise is to 
have succeeded in life ; and perhaps only in 
law and the higher mathematics may this de- 



36 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

votion be maintained, suffice to itself without 
reaction, and find continual rewards without 
excitement. This atmosphere of his father's 
sterling industry was the best of Archie's 
education. Assuredly it did not attract him ; 
assuredly it rather rebutted and depressed. 
Yet it was still present, unobserved like the 
ticking of a clock, an arid ideal, a tasteless 
stimulant in the boy's life. 

But Hermiston was not all of one piece. 
He was, besides, a mighty toper ; he could sit 
at wine until the day dawned, and pass di- 
rectly from the table to the Bench with a 
steady hand and a clear head. Beyond the 
third bottle, he showed the plebeian in a 
larger print ; the low, gross accent, the low, 
foul mirth, grew broader and commoner ; he 
became less formidable, and infinitely more 
disgusting. Now, the boy had inherited from 
Jean Rutherford a shivering delicacy, un- 
equally mated with potential violence. In 
the playing-fields, and amongst his own com- 
panions, he repaid a coarse expression with a 
blow ; at his father's table (when the time 
came for him to join these revels) he turned 



FATHER AND SON 37 

pale and sickened in silence. Of all the 
guests whom he there encountered, he had 
toleration for only one : David Keith Car- 
negie, Lord Glenalmond. Lord Glenalmond 
was tall and emaciated, with long features 
and long delicate hands. He was often com- 
pared with the statue of Forbes of Culloden 
in the Parliament House ; and his blue eye, 
at more than sixty, preserved some of the 
fire of youth. His exquisite disparity with 
any of his fellow guests, his appearance as of 
an artist and an aristocrat stranded in rude 
company, riveted the boy's attention ; and 
as curiosity and interest are the things in the 
world that are the most immediately and cer- 
tainly rewarded, Lord Glenalmond was 
attracted to the boy. 

" And so this is your son, Hermiston ?" he 
asked, laying his hand on Archie's shoulder. 
" He's getting a big lad." 

u Hout ! " said the gracious father, "just 
his mother over again daurna say boo to a 
goose !" 

But the stranger retained the boy, talked 
to him, drew him out, found in him a taste 



38 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

for letters, and a fine, ardent, modest, youth- 
ful soul ; and encouraged him to be a visitor 
on Sunday evenings in his bare, cold, lonely 
dining-room, where he sat and read in the 
isolation of a bachelor grown old in refine- 
ment. The beautiful gentleness and grace 
of the old Judge, and the delicacy of his per- 
son, thoughts, and language, spoke to Archie's 
heart in its own tongue. He conceived the 
ambition to be such another ; and. when the 
day came for him to choose a profession, it 
was in emulation of Lord Glenalmond, not 
of Lord Hermiston, that he chose the Bar. 
Hermiston looked on at this friendship with 
some secret pride, but openly with the intol- 
erance of scorn. He scarce lost an oppor- 
tunity to put them down with a rough jape ; 
and, to say truth, it was not difficult, for they 
were neither of them quick. He had a word 
of contempt for the whole crowd of poets, 
painters, fiddlers, and their admirers, the bas- 
tard race of amateurs, which was continually 
on his lips. " Signer Feedle-eerie ! " he 
would say. " Oh, for Goad's sake, no more 
of the Signer ! " 



FATHER AND SON 39 

" You and my father are great friends, are 
you not ? " asked Archie once. 

" There is no man that I more respect, 
Archie," replied Lord Glenalmond. " He is 
two things of price. He is a great lawyer, 
and he is upright as the day." 

" You and he are so different," said the 
boy, his eyes dwelling on those of his old 
friend, like a lover's on his mistress's. 

" Indeed so," replied the Judge ; " very 
different. And so I fear are you and he. 
Yet I would like it very ill if my young friend 
were to misjudge his father. He has all the 
Roman virtues : Cato and Brutus were such ; 
I think a son's heart might well be proud of 
such an ancestry of one." 

" And I would sooner he were a plaided 
herd," cried Archie, with sudden bitterness. 

" And that is neither very wise, nor I be- 
lieve entirely true," returned Glenalmond. 
" Before you are done you will find some of 
these expressions rise on you like a remorse. 
They are merely literary and decorative ; 
they do not aptly express your thought, nor 
is your thought clearly apprehended, and no 



40 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

doubt your father (if he were here) would 
say c Signer Feedle-eerie ! ' ' 

With the infinitely delicate sense of youth, 
Archie avoided the subject from that hour. 
It was perhaps a pity. Had he but talked 
talked freely let himself gush out in words 
(the way youth loves to do and should), there 
might have been no tale to write upon the 
Weirs of Hermiston. But the shadow of a 
threat of ridicule sufficed ; in the slight tart- 
ness of these words he read a prohibition ; 
and it is likely that Glenalmond meant it so. 

Besides the veteran, the boy was without 
confidant or friend. Serious and eager, he 
came through school and college, and moved 
among a crowd of the indifferent, in the 
seclusion of his shyness. He grew up hand- 
some, with an open, speaking countenance, 
with graceful, youthful ways ; he was clever, 
he took prizes, he shone in the Speculative 
Society. It should seem he must become the 
centre of a crowd of friends ; but something 
that was in part the delicacy of his mother, 
in part the austerity of his father, held him 
aloof from all. It is a fact, and a strange 



FATHER AND SON 41 

one, that among his contemporaries Hermis- 
ton's son was thought to be a chip of the old 
block. " You're a friend of Archie Weir's ?" 
said one to Frank Innes ; and Innes replied, 
with his usual flippancy and more than his 
usual insight : " I know Weir, but I never 
met Archie." No one had met Archie, a 
malady most incident to only sons. He flew 
his private signal, and none heeded it ; it 
seemed he was abroad in a world from which 
the very hope of intimacy was banished ; and 
he looked round about him on the concourse 
of his fellow-students, and forward to the 
trivial days and acquaintances that were to 
come, without hope or interest. 

As time went on, the tough and rough old 
sinner felt himself drawn to the son of his 
loins and sole continuator of his new family, 
with softnesses of sentiment that he could 
hardly credit and was wholly impotent to ex- 
press. With a face, voice and manner 
trained through forty years to terrify and 
repel, Rhadamanthus may be great, but he 
" will scarce be engaging. It is a fact that he 
tried to propitiate Archie, but a fact that can- 



42 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

not be too lightly taken ; the attempt was so 
unconspicuously made, the failure so stoically 
supported. Sympathy is not due to these 
steadfast iron natures. If he failed to gain 
his son's friendship, or even his son's. tolera- 
tion, on he went up the great, bare staircase 
of his duty, uncheered and undepressed. 
There might have been more pleasure in his 
relations with Archie, so much he may have 
recognised at moments ; but pleasure was a 
by-product of the singular chemistry of life, 
which only fools expected. 

An idea of Archie's attitude, since we are 
all grown up and have forgotten the days of 
our youth, it is more difficult to convey. He 
made no attempt whatsoever to understand the 
man with whom he dined and breakfasted. 
Parsimony of pain, glut of pleasure, these 
are the two alternating 'ends of youth ; and 
Archie was of the parsimonious. The.wind 
blew cold out of a certain quarter he 
turned his back upon it ; stayed as little as 
was possible in his father's presence ; and 
when there, averted his eyes as much as was 
decent from his father's face. The lamp 



FATHER AND SON 43 

shone for many hundred days upon these two 
at table my lord ruddy, gloomy, and un- 
reverent ; Archie with a potential brightness 
that was always dimmed and veiled in that 
society ; and there were not, perhaps, in 
Christendom two men more radically stran- 
gers. The father, with a grand simplicity, 
either spoke of what interested himself, or 
maintained an unaffected silence. The son 
turned in his head for some topic that should 
be quite safe, that would spare him fresh' evi- 
dences either of my lord's inherent gross- 
ness or of the innocence of his inhumanity j 
treading gingerly the ways of intercourse, like 
a lady gathering up her skirts in a by-path. 
If he made a mistake, ^and my lord began to 
abound in matter of offence, Archie drew 
himself up, his brow grew dark, his share of 
the talk expired ; but my lord would faith- 
fully and cheerfully continue to pour out the 
worst of himself before his silent and of- 
fended son. 

" Well, it's a poor hert that never re- 
joices " he would say, at the conclusion of 
such a nightmare interview. " But I must 



44 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

get to my plew-stilts." And he would se- 
clude himself as usual in the back room, and 
Archie go forth into the night and the city 
quivering with animosity and scorn. 



Chapter III 

IN THE MATTER OF THE HANGING OF 
DUNCAN JOPP 

It chanced in the year 1813 that Archie 
strayed one day into the Judiciary Court. 
The macer made room for the son of the 
presiding judge. In the dock, the centre of 
men's eyes, there stood a whey-coloured, mis- 
begotten caitiff, Duncan Jopp, on trial for his 
life. His story, as it was raked out before 
him in that public scene, was one of disgrace 
and vice and cowardice, the very nakedness 
of crime ; and the creature heard and it 
seemed at times as though he understood 
as if at times he forgot the horror of the 
place he stood in, and remembered the shame 
of what had brought him there. He kept his 
head bowed and his hands clutched upon the 
rail ; his hair dropped in his eyes and at times 
he flung it back; and now he glanced about 
the audience in a sudden fellness of terror, 
45 



46 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

ana now looked in the face of his judge and 
gulped. There was pinned about his throat 
a piece of dingy flannel; and this it was per- 
haps that turned the scale in Archie's mind 
between disgust and pity. The creature stood 
in a vanishing point; yet a little while, and he 
was still a man, and had eyes and apprehen- 
sion; yet a little longer, and with a last sordid 
piece of pageantry, he would cease to be. 
And here, in the meantime, with a trait of 
human nature that caught at the beholder's 
breath, he was tending a sore throat. 

Over against him, my Lord Hermiston oc- 
cupied the bench in the red robes of criminal 
jurisdiction, his face framed in the white wig. 
Honest all through, he did not affect the virtue 
of impartiality; this was no case for refine- 
ment; there was a man to be hanged, he would 
have said, and he was hanging him. Nor 
was it possible to see his lordship, and acquit 
him of gusto in the task. It was plain he 
gloried in the exercise of his trained faculties, 
m the clear sight which pierced at once into 
the joint of fact, in the rude, unvarnished 
jibes with which he demolished every figment 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 47 

of defense. He took his ease and jested, un- 
bending in that solemn place with some of 
the freedom of the tavern; and the rag of 
man with the flannel round his neck was 
hunted gallowsward with jeers. 

Duncan had a mistress, scarce less forlorn 
and greatly older than himself, who came up, 
whimpering and curtseying, to add the weight 
of her betrayal. My lord gave her the oath 
in his most roaring voice and added an in- 
tolerant warning. 

"Mind what ye say now, Janet," said he. 
"I have an e'e upon ye; I'm ill to jest with." 

Presently, after she was tremblingly em- 
barked on her story, "And what made ye do 
this, ye auld runt ? " the Court interposed. 
"Do ye mean to tell me ye was the pannel's 
mistress ? " 

"If you please, ma loard," whined the 
female. 

"Godsake ! ye made a bonny couple," ob- 
served his lordship; and there was something 
so formidable and ferocious in his scorn that 
not even the galleries thought to laugh. 

The summing up contained some jewels. 



4 8 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

" These two peetiable creatures seem to 
have made up thegither, it's not for us to 
explain why." " The pannel, who (what- 
ever else he may be) appears to be equally ill 
set out in mind and boady." " Neither the 
pannel nor yet the old wife appears to have 
had so much common sense as even to tell a 
lie when it was necessary." And in the 
course of sentencing, my lord had this obiter 
dictum : " I have been the means, under God, 
of haanging a great number, but never just 
such a disjaskit rascal as yourself." The 
words were strong in themselves ; the light 
and heat and detonation of their delivery, and 
the savage pleasure of the speaker in his task, 
made them tingle in the ears. 

When all was over, Archie came forth 
again into a changed world. Had there been 
the least redeeming greatness in the crime, 
any obscurity, any dubiety, perhaps he might 
have understood. But the culprit stood, with 
his sore throat, in the sweat of his mortal 
agony, without defence or excuse ; a thing to 
cover up with blushes ; a being so much 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 49 

sunk beneath the zones of sympathy that 
pity might seem harmless. And the judge 
had pursued him with a monstrous, relishing 
gaiety, horrible to be conceived, a trait for 
nightmares. It is one thing to spear a tiger, 
another to crush a toad ; there are aesthetics 
even of the slaughter-house ; and the loath- 
someness of Duncan Jopp enveloped .and 
infected the image of his judge. 

Archie passed by his friends in the High 
Street with incoherent words and gestures. 
He saw Holyrood in a dream, remembrance 
of its romance awoke in him and faded ; he 
had a vision of the old radiant stories, of 
Queen Mary and Prince Charlie, of the 
hooded stag, of the splendor and crime, the 
velvet and bright iron of the past ; and dis- 
missed them with a cry of pain. He lay and 
moaned in the Hunter's Bog, and the 
heavens were dark above him and the grass 
of the field an offence. " This is my father," 
he said. " I draw my life from him ; the 
flesh upon my bones is his, the bread I am 
fed with is the wages of these horrors." He 
recalled his mother, and ground his forehead 



50 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

in the earth. He thought of flight, and 
where was he to flee to ? of other lives, but 
was there any life worth living in this den of 
savage and jeering animals ? 

The interval before the execution was like 
a violent dream. He met his father; he 
would not look at him, he could not speak to 
him. It seemed there was no living creature 
but must have been swift to recognise that 
imminent animosity, but the hide of the 
Lord Justice-Clerk remained impenetrable. 
Had my lord been talkative, the truce could 
never have subsisted ; but he was by fortune 
in one of his humours of sour silence ; and 
under the very guns of his broadside Archie 
nursed the enthusiasm of rebellion. It seemed 
to him, from the top of his nineteen years' 
experience, as if he were marked at birth to 
be the perpetrator of some signal action, to 
set back fallen Mercy, to overthrow the 
usurping devil that sat, horned and hoofed, 
on her throne. Seductive Jacobin figments, 
which he had often refuted at the Speculative, 1 

1 A famous debating society of the students of Edinburgh 
University. 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 51 

swam up in his mind and startled him 
as with voices ; and he seemed to himself to 
walk accompanied by an almost tangible 
presence of new beliefs and duties. 

On the named morning he was at the place 
of execution. He saw the fleering rabble, 
the flinching wretch produced. He looked 
on for awhile at a certain parody of devotion, 
which seemed to strip the wretch of his last 
claim to manhood. Then followed the brutal 
instant of extinction, and the paltry dangling 
of the remains like a broken jumping-jack. 
He had been prepared for something terrible, 
not for this tragic meanness. He stood a 
moment silent, and then " I denounce this 
God-defying murder " he shouted ; and his 
father, if he must have disclaimed the senti- 
ment, might have owned the stentorian voice 
with which it was uttered. 

Frank Innes dragged him from the spot. 
The two handsome lads followed the same 
course of study and recreation, and felt a 
certain mutual attraction, founded mainly on 
good looks. It had never gone deep; Frank 
was by nature a thin, jeering creature, not 



53 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

truly susceptible whether of feeling or inspir- 
ing friendship ; and the relation between the 
pair was altogether on the outside, a thing of 
common knowledge and the pleasantries that 
spring from a common acquaintance. The 
more credit to Frank that he was appalled by 
Archie's outburst, and at least conceived the 
design of keeping him in sight, and, if possi- 
ble, in hand, for the day. But Archie, who 
had just defied was it God or Satan? 
would not listen to the word of a college 
companion. 

"I will not go with you," he said. "I do 
not desire your company, sir ; I would be 
alone." 

" Here, Weir, man, don't be absurd," said 
Innes, keeping a tight hold upon his sleeve. 
"I will not let you go until I know what you 
mean to do with yourself; it's no use brand- 
ishing that staff." For indeed at that moment 
Archie had made a sudden perhaps a war- 
like movement. "This has been the most 
insane affair; you know it has. You know 
verv well that I'm playing the good Samari- 
tan. All I wish is to keep you quiet." 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 53 

"If quietness is what you wish, Mr. Innes,'" 1 
said Archie, " and you will promise to leave 
me entirely to myself, I will tell you so much, 
that I am going to walk in the country and 
admire the beauties of nature." 

" Honor bright ? " asked Frank. 

" I am not in the habit of lying, Mr. 
Innes," retorted Archie. " I have the honour 
of wishing you good-day." 

" You won't forget the Spec. ? " asked 
Innes. 

" The Spec. ? " said Archie. " Oh no, I 
won't forget the Spec." 

And the one young man carried his tor- 
tured spirit forth of the city and all the day 
long, by one road and another, in an endless 
pilgrimage of misery ; while the other 
hastened smilingly to spread the news of 
Weir's access of insanity, and to drum up for 
that night a full attendance at the Specula- 
tive, where farther eccentric developments 
might certainly be looked for. I doubt if 
Innes had the least belief in his prediction ; 
I think it flowed rather from a wish to make 
the story as good and the scandal as great as 



54 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

possible ; not from any ill-will to Archie 
from the mere pleasure of beholding interested 
faces. But for all that his words were pro- 
phetic. Archie did not forget the Spec. ; he 
put in an appearance there at the due time, 
and, before the evening was over, had dealt a 
memorable shock to his companions. It 
chanced he was the president of the night. He 
sat in the same room where the society still 
meets only the portraits were not there; the 
men who afterwards sat for them were then 
but beginning their career. The same lustre 
of many tapers shed its light over the meet- 
ing ; the same chair, perhaps, supported him 
that so many of us have sat in since. At 
times he seemed to forget the business of the 
evening, but even in these periods he sat with 
a great air of energy and determination. At 
times he meddled bitterly and launched with 
defiance those fines which are the precious 
and rarely used artillery of the president. He 
little thought, as he did so, how he resembled 
his father, but his friends remarked upon it, 
.chuckling. So far, in his high place above 
his fellow-students, he seemed set beyond 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 55 

the possibility of any scandal ; but his mind 
was made up he was determined to fulfil 
the sphere of his offence. He signed to 
Innes (whom he had just fined, and who just 
impeached his ruling) to succeed him in the 
chair, stepped down from the platform, and 
took his place by the chimney-piece, the 
shine of many wax tapers from above illum- 
inating his pale face, the glow of the great 
red fire relieving from behind his slim figure. 
He had to propose, as an amendment to the 
next subject in the case book, " Whether 
capital punishment be consistent with God's 
will or man's policy ? " 

A breath of embarrassment, of something 
like alarm, passed round the room, so daring 
did these words appear upon the lips of Her- 
miston's only son. But the amendment was 
not seconded; the previous question was 
promptly moved and unanimously voted, and 
the momentary scandal smuggled by. Innes 
triumphed in the fulfilment of his prophecy. 
He and Archie were now become the heroes 
of the night ; but whereas everyone crowded 
about Innes, wheh the meeting broke up, but 



56 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

one of all his companions came to speak to 
Archie. 

"Weir, man ! That was an extraordinary 
raid of yours ! " observed this courageous 
member, taking him confidentially by the arm 
as they went out. 

"I don't think it a raid," said Archie 
grimly. " More like a war. I saw that poor 
brute hanged this morning, and my gorge 
rises at it yet." 

" Hut-tut ! " returned his companion, and, 
dropping his arm like something hot, he 
sought the less tense society of others. 

Archie found himself alone. The last of 
the faithful or was it only the boldest of 
the curious ? had fled. He watched the 
black huddle of his fellow-students draw off 
down and up the street, in whispering or 
boisterous gangs. And the isolation of the 
moment weighed upon him like an omen and 
an emblem of his destiny in life. Bred up 
in unbroken fear himself, among trembling 
servants, and in a house which (at the least 
ruffle in the master's voice) shuddered into 
silence, he saw himself on the brink of the 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 57 

red valley of war, and measured the danger 
and length of it with awe. He made a de- 
tour in the glimmer and shadow of the streets, 
came into the back stable lane, and watched 
for a long while the light burn steady in the 
Judge's room. The longer he gazed upon 
that illuminated window-blind, the more blank 
became the picture of the man who sat be- 
hind it, endlessly turning over sheets of pro- 
cess, pausing to sip a glass of port, or rising 
and passing heavily about his book-lined walls 
to verify some reference. He could not 
combine the brutal judge and the industrious, 
dispassionate student ; the connecting link 
escaped him ; from such a dual nature, it was 
impossible he should predict behaviour ; and 
he asked himself if he had done well to 
plunge into a business of which the end could 
not be foreseen ? and presently after, with a 
sickening decline of confidence, if he had done 
loyally to strike his father ? For he had 
struck him defied him twice over and be- 
fore a cloud of witnesses struck him a public 
buffet before crowds. Who had called him 
to judge his father in these precarious and 



58 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

high questions ? The office was usurped. It 
might have become a stranger; in a son there 
was no blinking it in a son, it was disloyal. 
And now, between these two natures so anti- 
pathetic, so hateful to each other, there was 
depending an unpardonable affront : and the 
providence of God alone might foresee the 
manner in which it would be resented by 
Lord Hermiston. 

These misgivings tortured him all night and 
arose with him in the winter's morning ; 
they followed him from class to class, they 
made him shrinkingly sensitive to every shade 
of manner in his companions, they sounded 
in his ears through the current voice of the 
professor; and he brought them home with 
him at night unabated and indeed increased. 
The cause of this increase lay in a chance 
encounter with the celebrated Dr. Gregory. 
Archie stood looking vaguely in the lighted 
window of a book shop, trying to nerve him- 
self for the approaching ordeal. My lord and 
he had met and parted in the morning as they 
had now done for long, with scarcely the or- 
dinary civilities of life ; and it was plain to 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 59 

the son that nothing had yet reached the 
father's ears. Indeed, when he recalled the 
awful countenance of my lord, a timid hope 
sprang up in him that perhaps there would be 
found no one bold enough to carry tales. If 
this were so, he asked himself, would he be- 
gin again ? and he found no answer. It was 
at this moment that a hand was laid upon his 
arm, and a voice said in his ear, " My dear 
Mr. Archie, you had better come and see 
me." 

He started, turned around, and found him- 
self face to face with Dr. Gregory. " And 
why should I come to see you ? " he asked, 
with the defiance of the miserable. 

" Because you are looking exceeding ill," 
said the doctor, " and you very evidently want 
looking after, my young friend. Good folk 
are scarce, you know ; and it is not everyone 
that would be quite so much missed as your- 
self. It is not everyone that Hermiston 
would miss." 

And with a nod and a smile, the doctor 
passed on. 

A moment after, Archie was in pursuit, 



60 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

and had in turn, but more roughly, seized 
him by the arm. 

" What do you mean ? what did you mean 
by saying that ? What makes you think 
that Hermis my father would have missed 
me ? " 

The doctor turned about and looked him 
all over with a clinical eye. A far more 
stupid man than Dr. Gregory might have 
guessed the truth ; but ninety-nine out of a 
hundred, even if they had been equally in- 
clined to kindness, would have blundered by 
some touch of charitable exaggeration. The 
doctor was better inspired. He knew the 
father well ; in that white face of intelli- 
gence and suffering, he divined something of 
the son ; and he told, without apology or 
adornment, the plain truth. 

" When you had the measles, Mr. Archi- 
bald, you had them gey and ill ; and I 
thought you were going to slip between my 
fingers," he said. " Well, your father was 
anxious. How did I know it ? says you. 
Simply because I am a trained observer. 
The sign that I saw him make, ten thousand 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 61 

would have missed; and perhaps perhaps, 
I say, because he's a hard man to judge of 
but perhaps he never made another. A 
strange thing to consider ! It was this. One 
day I came to him : l Hermiston,' said I, 
4 there 's a change.' He never said a word, 
just glowered at me (if ye '11 pardon the 
phrase) like a wild beast. c A change for 
the better,' said I. And I distinctly heard 
him take his breath." 

The doctor left no opportunity for anti- 
climax ; nodding his cocked hat (a piece of 
antiquity to which he clung) and repeating 
" Distinctly " with raised eyebrows, he took 
his departure, and left Archie speechless in 
the street. 

The anecdote might be called infinitely 
little, and yet its meaning for Archie was 
immense. " I did not know the old man 
had so much blood in him." He had never 
dreamed this sire of his, this aboriginal an- 
tique, this adamantine Adam, had even so 
much of a heart as to be moved in the least 
degree for another and that other himself, 
who had insulted him ! With the generosity 



62 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

of youth, Archie was instantly under arms 
upon the other side : had instantly created a 
new image of Lord Hermiston, that of a 
man who was all iron without and all sensi- 
bility within. The mind of the vile jester, 
the tongue that had pursued Duncan Jopp 
with unmanly insults, the unbeloved counte- 
nance that he had known and feared for so 
long, were all forgotten ; and he hastened 
home, impatient to confess his misdeeds, im- 
patient to throw himself on the mercy of 
this imaginary character. 

He was not to be long without a rude 
awakening. It was in the gloaming when he 
drew near the doorstep of the lighted house, 
and was aware of the figure of his father ap- 
proaching from the opposite side. Little 
daylight lingered ; but on the door being 
opened, the strong yellow shine of the lamp 
gushed out upon the landing and shone full 
on Archie, as he stood, in the old-fashioned 
observance of respect, to yield precedence. 
The Judge came without haste, stepping 
stately and firm ; his chin raised, his face (as 
he entered the lamplight) strongly illumined, 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 63 

his mouth set hard. There was never a 
wink of change in his expression ; without 
looking to the right or left, he mounted the 
stair, passed close to Archie, and entered the 
house. Instinctively, the boy, upon his first 
coming, had made a movement to meet him ; 
instinctively, he recoiled against the railing, 
as the old man swept by him in a pomp of 
indignation. Words were needless ; he knew 
all perhaps more than all and the hour 
of judgment was at hand. 

It is possible that, in this sudden revulsion 
of hope and before these symptoms of im- 
pending danger, Archie might have fled. 
But not even that was left to him. My lord, 
after hanging up his cloak and hat, turned 
round in the lighted entry, and made him an 
imperative and silent gesture with his thumb, 
and with the strange instinct of obedience, 
Archie followed him into the house. 

All dinner time there reigned over the 
Judge's table a palpable silence, and as soon 
as the solids were despatched he rose to his 
feet. 

" M'Killup, tak' the wine into my room," 



64 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

said he ; and then to his son : " Archie, you 
and me has to have a talk." 

It was at this sickening moment that 
Archie's courage, for the first and last time, 
entirely deserted him. " I have an appoint- 
ment," said he. 

" It'll have to be broken, then," said Her- 
miston, and led the way into his study. 

The lamp was shaded, the fire trimmed to 
a nicety, the table covered deep with orderly 
documents, the backs of law books made a 
frame upon all sides that was only broken by 
the window and the doors. 

For a moment Hermiston warmed his hands 
at the fire, presenting his back to Archie ; 
then suddenly disclosed on him the terrors of 
the Hanging Face. 

"What's this I hear of ye !" he asked. 

There was no answer possible to Archie. 

" I'll have to tell ye, then," pursued Her- 
miston. "It seems ye've been skirling against 
the father that begot ye, and one of His Mai- 
jesty's Judges in this land ; and that in the 
public street, and while an order of the Court 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 65 

was being executit. Forbye which, it would 
appear that ye've been airing your opeenions 
in a Coallege Debatin' Society," he paused a 
moment : and then, with extraordinary bitter- 
ness, added : " Ye damned eediot." 

"I had meant to tell you," stammered 
Archie. "I see you are well informed." 

"Muckle obleeged to ye," said his lordship, 
and took his usual seat. "And so you disap- 
prove of caapital punishment?" he added. 

"I am sorry, sir, I do," said Archie. 

" I am sorry, too," said his lordship. " And 
now, if you please, we shall approach this 
business with a little more parteecularity. I 
hear that at the hanging of Duncan Jopp 
and, man! ye had a fine client there in the 
middle of all the riffraff of the ceety, ye 
thought fit to cry out, 'This is a damned 
murder, and my gorge rises at the man that 
haangit him.' " 

" No, sir, these were not my words," cried 
Archie. 

"What were ye' r words, then?" asked the 
Judge. 

"I believe I said C I denounce it as a mur- 



66 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

der!'" said the son, "I beg your pardon a 
God-defying murder. I have no wish to 
conceal the truth," he added, and looked his 
father for a moment in the face. 

" God, it would only need that of it 
next ! " cried Hermiston. " There was 
nothing about your gorge rising, then ? " 

" That was afterwards, my lord, as I was 
leaving the Speculative. I said I had been 
to see the miserable creature hanged, and my 
gorge rose at it." 

" Did ye, though ? " said Hermiston. 
" And I suppose ye knew who haangit him ? " 

" I was present at the trial, I ought to tell 
you that, I ought to explain. I ask your 
pardon beforehand for any expression that 
may seem undutiful. The position in which 
I stand is wretched," said the unhappy hero, 
now fairly face to face with the business he 
had chosen. " I have been reading some of 
your cases. I was present while Jopp was 
tried. It was a hideous business. Father, 
it was a hideous thing ! Grant he was vile, 
why should you hunt him with a vileness 
equal to his own ? It was done with glee 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 67 

that is the word you did it with glee; and 
I looked on, God help me ! with horror." 

" You're a young gentleman that doesna 
approve of caapital punishment," said Her- 
miston. " Weel, I'm an auld man that does. 
I was glad to get Jopp haangit, and what for 
would I pretend I wasna ? You're all for 
honesty, it seems; you couldn't even steik 
your mouth on the public street. What for 
should I steik mines upon the bench, the 
King's officer, bearing the sword, a dreid to 
evil-doers, as I was from the beginning, and 
as I will be to the end ! Mair than enough 
of it ! Heedious ! 1 never gave twa thoughts 
to heediousness, I have no call to be bonny. 
I'm a man that gets through with my day's 
business, and let that suffice." 

The ring of sarcasm had died out of his 
voice as he went on ; the plain words became 
invested with some of the dignity of the 
justice-seat. 

" It would be telling you if you could say 
as much," the speaker resumed. " But ye 
can not. Ye've been reading some of my 



68 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

cases, ye say. But it was not for the law in 
them, it was to spy out your faither's naked- 
ness, a fine employment in a son. You're 
splairging ; you're running at lairge in life 
like a wild nowt. It's impossible you should 
think any longer of coming to the Bar. 
You're not fit for it ; no splairger is. And 
another thing : son of mines or no son of 
mines, you have flung fylement in public on 
one of the Senators of the Coallege of Jus- 
tice, and I would make it my business to see 
that ye were never admitted there yourself. 
There is a kind of a decency to be observit. 
Then comes the next of it what am I to 
do with ye next ? Ye'll have to find some 
kind of a trade, for I'll never support ye in 
idleset. What do ye fancy ye'll be fit for ? 
The pulpit ? Na, they could never get 
diveenity into that bloackhead. Him that 
the law of man whammles is no likely to do 
muckle better by the law of God. What 
would ye make of hell ? Wouldna your 
gorge rise at that ? Na, there's no room for 
splairgers under the fower quarters of John 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 69 

Calvin. What else is there ? Speak up. 
Have ye got nothing of your own ? " 

" Father, let me go to the Peninsula," said 
Archie. " That's all I'm fit for to fight." 

" All ? quo' he ! " returned the Judge. 
" And it would be enough too, if I thought 
it. But I'll never trust ye so near the 
French, you that's so Frenchifeed." 

" You do me injustice there, sir," said 
Archie. " I am loyal ; I will not boast ; 
but any interest I may have ever felt in the 
French " 

" Have ye been so loyal to me ? " inter- 
rupted his father. 

There came no reply. 

" I think not," continued Hermiston. 
" And I would send no man to be a servant 
to the King, God bless him ! that has proved 
such a shauchling son to his own faither. 
You can splairge here on Edinburgh street, 
and where's the hairm ? It doesna play 
buff on me ! And if there were twenty 
thousand eediots like yourself, sorrow a 
Duncan Jopp would hang the fewer. But 



70 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

there's no splairging possible in a camp ; and 
if you were to go to it, you would find out 
for yourself whether Lord Well'n'ton ap- 
proves of caapital punishment or not. You 
a sodger ! " he cried, with a sudden burst of 
scorn. " Ye auld wife, the sodgers would 
bray at ye like cuddies ! " 

As at the drawing of a curtain, Archie 
was aware of some illogicality in his position, 
and stood abashed. He had a strong impres- 
sion, besides, of the essential valour of the 
old gentleman before him, how conveyed it 
would be hard to say. 

"Well, have ye no other proposeetion ? " 
said my lord again. 

"You have taken this so calmly, sir, that I 
cannot but stand ashamed," began Archie. 

"I'm nearer voamiting, though, than you 
would fancy," said my lord. 

The blood rose to Archie's brow. 

" I beg your pardon, I should have said that 
you had accepted my affront. . . I admit 
it was an affront; I did not think to apologise, 
but I do, I ask your pardon; it will not be so 
again, I pass you my word of honour. 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 7 1 

I should have said that I admired your mag- 
nanimity with this offender," Archie con- 
cluded with a gulp. 

" I have no other son, ye see," said Hermis- 
ton. " A bonny one I have gotten ! But I 
must just do the best I can wi' him, and what 
am I to do? If ye had been younger, I 
would have wheepit ye for this rideeculous 
exhibeetion. The way it is, I have just to 
grin and bear. But one thing is to be clearly 
understood. As a faither, I must grin and 
bear it; but if 1 had been the Lord Advocate 
instead of the Lord Justice-Clerk, son or no 
son, Mr. Erchibald Weir would have been in 
a jyle the night." 

Archie was now dominated. Lord Her- 
miston was coarse and cruel ; and yet the son 
was aware of a bloomless nobility, an un- 
gracious abnegation of the man's self in the 
man's office. At every word, this sense of 
the greatness of Lord Hermiston's spirit struck 
more home ; and along with it that of his own 
impotence, who had struck and perhaps 
basely struck at his own father, and not 
reached so far as to have even nettled him. 



72 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

" I place myself in your hands without re- 
serve," he said. 

" That's the first sensible word I've had of 
ye the night," said Hermiston. " I can tell 
ye, that would have been the end of it, the 
one way or the other ; but it's better ye 
should come there yourself, than what I would 
have had to hirstle ye. Weel, by my way 
of it and my way is the best there's just 
the one thing it's possible that ye might be 
with decency, and that's a laird. Ye'll be 
out of hairm's way at the least of it. If ye 
have to rowt, ye can rowt amang the kye ; 
and the maist feck of the caapital punish- 
ment ye're like to come across '11 be guddling 
trouts. Now, I'm for no idle lairdies ; every 
man has to work, if it's only at peddling bal- 
lants ; to work, or to be wheeped, or to be 
haangit. If I set ye down at Hermiston, I'll 
have to see you work that place the way it 
has never been workit yet; ye must ken 
about the sheep like a herd ; ye must be my 
grieve there, and I'll see that I gain by ye. 
Is that understood ? " 



THE HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 73 

" I will do my best," said Archie. 

" Well, then, I'll send Kirstie word the 
morn, and ye can go yourself the day after," 
said Hermiston. " And just try to be less of 
an eediot ! " he concluded, with a freezing 
smile, and turned immediately to the papers 
on his desk. 



Chapter IV 

OPINION OF THE BENCH 

Late the same night, after a disordered 
walk, Archie was admitted into Lord Glen- 
almond's dining-room where he sat, with a 
book upon his knee, beside three frugal coals 
of fire. In his robes upon the bench, Glen- 
almond had a certain air of burliness : plucked 
of these, it was a may-pole of a man tha': 
rose unsteadily from his chair to give his vis- 
itor welcome. Archie had suffered much in 
the last days, he had suffered again that 
evening ; his face was white and drawn, his 
eyes wild and dark. But Lord Glenalmond 
greeted him without the least mark of sur- 
prise or curiosity. 

" Come in, come in," said he. " Come 
in and take a seat. Carstairs " (to his ser- 
vant) " make up the fire, and then you can 
bring a bit of supper," and again to Archie, 
74 



OPINION OF THE BENCH 75 

with a very trivial accent : " I was half ex- 
pecting you," he added. 

" No supper," said Archie. " It is impos- 
sible that I should eat." 

" Not impossible," said the tall old man, 
laying his hand upon his shoulder, " and, if 
you will believe me, necessary." 

" You know what brings me ? " said 
Archie, as soon as the servant had left the 
room. 

" I have a guess, I have a guess," replied 
Glenalmond. " We will talk of it presently 
when Carstairs has come and gone, and 
you have had a piece of my good Cheddar 
cheese and a pull at the porter tankard : not 
before." 

" It is impossible I should eat," repeated 
Archie. 

" Tut, tut ! " said Lord Glenalmond. 
"You have eaten nothing to-day, and, I ven- 
ture to add, nothing yesterday. There is no 
case that may not be made worse; this may be 
a very disagreeable business, but if you were 
to fall sick and die, it would be still more so, 
and for all concerned for all concerned." 



76 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

" I see you must know all," said Archie. 
; Where did you hear it ? " 

ct In the mart of scandal, in the Parlia- 
ment House," said Glenalmond. " It runs 
riot below among the bar and the public, but 
it sifts up to us upon the bench, and rumour 
has some of her voices even in the divisions." 

Carstairs returned at this moment, and rap- 
idly laid out a little supper ; during which 
Lord Glenalmond spoke at large and a little 
vaguely on indifferent subjects, so that it might 
be rather said of him that he made a cheer- 
ful noise, than that he contributed to human 
conversation ; and Archie sat upon the other 
side, not heeding him, brooding over his 
wrongs and errors. 

But so soon as the servant was gone, he 
broke forth again at once. " Who told my 
father ? Who dared to tell him ? Could it 
have been you ? " 

" No, it was not me," said the Judge ; 
" although to be quite frank with you, and 
after I had seen and warned you it might 
have been me. I believe it was Glenkindie." 

" That shrimp ! " cried Archie. 



OPINION OF THE BENCH 77 

" As you say, that shrimp," returned my 
lord ; " although really it is scarce a fitting 
mode of expression for one of the Senators 
of the College of Justice. \Ve were hearing 
the parties in a long, crucial case, before the 
fifteen; Creech was moving at some length 
for an infeftment; when I saw Glenkindie 
lean forward to Hermiston with his hand 
over his mouth and make him a secret com- 
munication. No one could have guessed its 
nature from your father; from Glenkindie, 
yes, his malice sparked out of him a little 
grossly. But your father, no. A man of 
granite. The next moment he pounced 
upon Creech. 'Mr. Creech,' says he, 'I'll 
take a look of that sasine,' and for thirty 
minutes after," said Glenalmond, with a 
smile, "Messrs. Creech and Co. were fight- 
ing a pretty uphill battle, which resulted, I 
need hardly add, in their total rout. The 
case was dismissed. No, I doubt if ever I 
heard Hermiston better inspired. He was 
literally rejoicing in apidbus juris." 

Archie was able to endure no longer. He 
thrust his plate away and interrupted the 



7 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

deliberate and insignificant stream of talk. 
" Here," he said, " I have made a fool of 
myself, if I have not made something worse. 
Do you judge between us judge between a 
father and a son. I can speak to you; it is 
not like .... I will tell you what I feel 
and what I mean to do; and you shall be the 
judge," he repeated. 

"I decline jurisdiction," said Glenalmond 
with extreme seriousness. "But, my dear 
boy, if it will do you any good to talk, and if 
it will interest you at all to hear what I may 
choose to say when I have heard you, I am 
quite at your command. Let an old man 
say it, for once, and not need to blush: I 
love you like a son." 

There came a sudden sharp sound in 
Archie's throat. " Ay," he cried, " and 
there it is ! Love ! Like a son ! And how 
do you think I love my father ? " 

" Quietly, quietly," says my lord. 

" I will be very quiet," replied Archie. 
" And I will be baldly frank. I do not love 
my father ; I wonder sometimes if I do not 
hate him. There's my shame ; perhaps my 



OPINION OF THE BENCH 79 

sin ; at least, and in the sight of God, not my 
fault. How was I to love him ? He has 
never spoken to me, never smiled upon me ; 
I do not think he ever touched me. You 
know the way he talks ? You do not talk so, 
yet you can sit and hear him without shud- 
dering, and I cannot. My soul is sick when 
he begins with it ; I could smite him in the 
mouth. And all that's nothing. I was at 
the trial of this Jopp. You were not there, 
but you must have heard him often; the 
man's notorious for it, for being look at my 
position ! he's my father and this is how I 
have to speak of him notorious for being a 
brute and cruel and a coward. Lord Glenal- 
mond, I give you my word, when I came out 
of that Court, I longed to die the shame of 
it was beyond my strength : but I I " he 
rose from his seat and began to pace the 
room in a disorder. " Well, who am I ? A 
boy, who have never been tried, have never 
done anything except this twopenny impotent 
folly with my father. But I tell you, my 
lord, and I know myself, I am at least that 
kind of a man or that kind of a boy, if you 



8o WEIR OF HERMISTON 

prefer it that I could die interments rather 
than that anyone should suffer as that scoun- 
drel suffered. Well, and what have I done ? 
I see it now. I have made a fool of myself, 
as I said in the beginning ; and I have gone 
back, and asked my father's pardon, and 
placed myself wholly in his hands and he 
has sent me to Hermiston," with a wretched 
smile, "for life, I suppose and what can I 
say ? he strikes me as having done quite- 
right, and let me off better than I had de- 
served." 

" My poor, dear boy ! " observed Glenal- 
mond. " My poor dear and, if you will allow 
me to say so, very foolish boy ! You are 
only discovering where you are ; to one of 
your temperament, or of mine, a painful dis- 
covery. The world was not made for us ; 
it was made for ten hundred millions of men, 
all different from each other and from us ; 
there's no royal road there, we just have to 
sclamber and tumble. Don't think that I 
am at all disposed to be surprised ; don't 
suppose that I ever think of blaming you ; 
indeed I rather admire ! But there fall to be 



OPINION OF THE BENCH 81 

offered one or two observations on the case 
which occur to me and which (if you will 
listen to them dispassionately) may be the 
means of inducing you to view the matter 
more calmly. First of all, I cannot acquit 
you of a good deal of what is called intoler- 
ance. You seem to have been very much 
offended because your father talks a little 
sculduddery after dinner, which it is per- 
fectly licit for him to do, and which (although 
I am not very fond of it myself) appears to 
be entirely an affair of taste. Your father, I 
scarcely like to remind you, since it is so 
trite a commonplace, is older than yourself. 
At least, he is major and sui juris, and may 
please himself in the matter of his conversa- 
tion. And, do you know, I wonder if he 
might not have as good an answer against 
you and me ? We say we sometimes find 
him coarse, but I suspect he might retort 
that he finds us always dull. Perhaps a rele- 
vant exception." 

He beamed on Archie, but no smile could 
be elicited. 



82 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

" And now," proceeded the Judge, " for 
'Archibald on Capital Punishment.' This is 
a very plausible academic opinion ; of course 
I do not and I cannot hold it ; but that's not 
to say that many able and excellent persons 
have not done so in the past. Possibly, in 
the past also, I may have a little dipped my- 
self in the same heresy. My third client, or 
possibly my fourth, was the means of a return 
in my opinions. I never saw the man I 
more believed in ; I would have put my hand 
in the fire, I would have gone to the cross 
for him ; and when it came to trial he was 
gradually pictured before me, by undeniable 
probation, in the light of so gross, so cold- 
blooded, and so black-hearted a villain, that I 
had a mind to have cast my brief upon the 
table. I was then boiling against the man 
with even a more tropical temperature than I 
had been boiling for him. But I said to 
myself: ' No, you have taken up his case; 
and because you have changed your mind it 
must not be suffered to let drop. All that 
rich tide of eloquence that you prepared last 
night with so much enthusiasm is out of 



OPINION OF THE BENCH 83 

place, and yet you must not desert him, you 
must say something.' So I said something, 
and I got him off. It made my reputation. 
But an experience of that kind is formative. 
A man must not bring his passions to the 
bar or to the bench." 

The story had slightly rekindled Archie's 
interest. " I could never deny," he began 
" I mean I can conceive that some men 
would be better dead. But who are we to 
know all the springs of God's unfortunate 
creatures ? Who are we to trust ourselves 
where it seems that God himself must think 
twice before He treads, and to do it with 
delight ? Yes, with delight. Tigris ut 
aspera" 

" Perhaps not a pleasant spectacle," said 
Glenalmond. " And yet, do you know, I 
think somehow a great one." 

" I've had a long talk with him to-night," 
said Archie. 

" I was supposing so," said Glenalmond. 

" And he struck me 1 cannot deny 

that he struck me as something very big," 
pursued the son. " Yes, he is big. He never 



84 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

spoke about himself; only about me. I sup- 
pose I admired him. The dreadful part " 

" Suppose we did not talk about that," in- 
terrupted Glenalmond. " You know it very 
well, it cannot in any way help that you 
should brood upon it, and I sometimes wonder 
whether you and I who are a pair of senti- 
mentalists are quite good judges of plain 
men." 

" How do you mean ? " asked Archie. 

" Fair judges, I mean," replied Glenal- 
mond. " Can we be just to them ? Do we 
not ask too much ? There was a word of 
yours just now that impressed me a little 
when you asked me who we were to know 
all the springs of God's unfortunate creatures. 
You applied that, as I understood, to capital 
cases only. But does it I ask myself does 
it not apply all through ? Is it any less diffi- 
cult to judge of a good man or of a half- 
good man, than of the worst criminal at the 
bar ? And may not each have relevant ex- 
cuses ? " 

" Ah, but we do not talk of punishing the 
good," cried Archie. 



OPINION OF THE BENCH 85 

" No, we do not talk of it," said Glenal- 
mond. " But I think we do it. Your father, 
for instance." 

" You think I have punished him ? " cried 
Archie. 

Lord Glenalmond bowed his head. 

"I think I have," said Archie. "And 
the worst is, I think he feels it ! How much, 
who can tell, with such a being ? But I 
think he does." 

" And I am sure of it," said Glenalmond. 

" Has he spoken to you, then ? " cried Ar- 
chie. 

" Oh, no," replied the Judge. 

" I tell you honestly," said Archie, " I 
want to make it up to him. I will go, I 
have already pledged myself to go, to Her- 
miston. That was to him. And now I 
pledge myself to you, in the sight of God, 
that I will close my mouth on capital punish- 
ment and all other subjects where our views 
may clash, for how long shall I say? when 
shall I have sense enough ? ten years. Is 
that well ? " 

" It is well," said my lord. 



86 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

" As far as it goes," said Archie. " It is 
enough as regards myself, it is to lay down 
enough of my conceit. But as regards him, 
whom I have publicly insulted ? What am 
I to do to him ? How do you pay attentions 
to a an Alp like that ? " 

" Only in one way," replied Glenalmond. 
" Only by obedience, punctual, prompt, and 
scrupulous." 

" And I promise that he shall have it," an- 
swered Archie. " I offer you my hand in 
pledge of it." 

" And I take your hand as a solemnity," 
replied the Judge. " God bless you, my 
dear, and enable you to keep your promise. 
God guide you in the true way, and spare 
your days, and preserve to you your honest 
heart." At that, he kissed the young man 
upon the forehead in a gracious, distant, anti- 
quated way ; and instantly launched, with a 
marked change of voice, into another sub- 
ject. " And now, let us replenish the tank- 
ard ; and I believe, if you will try my Ched- 
dar again, you would find you had a better 



OPINION OF THE BENCH 87 

appetite. The Court has spoken, and the 
case is dismissed." 

" No, there is one thing I must say," cried 
Archie. " I must say it in justice to himself. 
I know I believe faithfully, slavishly, after 
our talk he will never ask me anything un- 
just. I am proud to feel it, that we have 
that much in common, I am proud to say it 
to you." 

The Judge, with shining eyes, raised his 
tankard. " And I think perhaps that we 
might permit ourselves a toast," said he. " I 
should like to propose the health of a man 
very different from me and very much my 
superior a man from whom I have often 
differed, who has often (in the trivial ex- 
pression) rubbed me the wrong way, but 
whom I have never ceased to respect and, I 
may add, to be not a little afraid of. Shall I 
give you his name ? " 

" The Lord Justice-Clerk, Lord Her- 
miston," said Archie, almost with gaiety ; 
and the pair drank the toast deeply. 

It was not precisely easy to re-establish, 



88 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

after these emotional passages, the natural 
flow of conversation. But the Judge eked 
out what was wanting with kind looks, pro- 
duced his snufF-box (which was very rarely 
seen) to fill in a pause, and at last, despairing 
of any further social success, was upon the 
point of getting down a book to read a fav- 
ourite passage, when there came a rather 
startling summons at the front door, and 
Carstairs ushered in my Lord Glenkindie, hot 
from a midnight supper. I am not aware 
that Glenkindie was ever a beautiful object, 
being short, and gross-bodied, and with an 
expression of sensuality comparable to a 
bear's. At that moment, coming in hissing 
from many potations, with a flushed counte- 
nance and blurred eyes, he was strikingly 
contrasted with the tall, pale, kingly figure of 
Glenalmond. A rush of confused thought 
came over Archie of shame that this was 
one of his father's elect friends ; of pride, 
that at the least of it Hermiston could carry 
his liquor ; and last of all, of rage, that he 
should have here under his eye the man that 
had betrayed him. And then that too passed 



OPINION OF THE BENCH 89 

away ; and he sat quiet, biding his oppor- 
tunity. 

The tipsy senator plunged at once into an 
explanation with Glenalmond. There was 
a point reserved yesterday, he had been able 
to make neither head nor tail of it, and see- 
ing lights in the house, he had just dropped 
in for a glass of porter and at this point he 
became aware of the third person. Archie 
saw the cod's mouth and the blunt lips of 
Glenkindie gape at him for a moment, and 
the recognition twinkle in his eyes. 

" Who's this ? " said he. " What ? is this 
possibly you, Don Quickshot ? And how 
are ye ? And how's your father ? And 
what's all this we hear of you ? It seems 
you're a most extraordinary leveller, by all 
tales. No king, no parliaments, and your 
gorge rises at the macers, worthy men ! Hoot, 
toot ! Dear, dear me ! Your father's son 
too ! Most rideekulous!" 

Archie was on his feet, flushing a little at 
the reappearance of his unhappy figure of 
speech, but perfectly self-possessed. " My 
lord and you, Lord Glenalmond, my dear 



9 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

friend," he began, " this is a happy chance 
for me, that I can make my confession 
and offer my apologies to two of you at 
once." 

" Ah, but I don't know about that. Con- 
fession ? It'll be judeecial, my young friend," 
cried the jocular Glenkindie. " And I'm 
afraid to listen to ye. Think if ye were to 
make me a coanvert ! " 

" If you would allow me, my lord," re- 
turned Archie, " what I have to say is very 
serious to me ; and be pleased to be humor- 
ous after I am gone ! " 

" Remember, I'll hear nothing against the 
macers !" put in the incorrigible Glenkindie. 

But Archie continued as though he had 
not spoken. " I have played, both yesterday 
and to-day, a part for which I can only offer 
the excuse of youth. I was so unwise as to 
go to an execution ; it seems, I made a scene 
at the gallows ; not content with which, I 
spoke the same night in a college society 
against capital punishment. This is the ex- 
tent of what I have done, and in case you 
hear more alleged against me, I protest my 



OPINION OF THE BENCH 91 

innocence. I have expressed my regret al- 
ready to my father, who is so good as to 
pass my conduct over in a degree, and 
upon the condition that I am to leave my 
law studies." . 



Chapter V 

WINTER ON THE MOORS 
I. AT HERMISTON 

The road to Hermiston runs for a great 
part of the way up the valley of a stream, a 
favourite with anglers and with midges, full 
of falls and pools, and shaded by willows and 
natural woods of birch. Here and there, but 
at great distances, a byway branches off, and 
a gaunt farmhouse may be descried above in 
a fold of the hill ; but the more part of the 
time, the road would be quite empty of pass- 
age and the hills of habitation. Hermiston 
parish is one of the least populous in Scot- 
land ; and, by the time you came that length, 
you would scarce be surprised at the inimita- 
ble smallness of the kirk, a dwarfish, ancient 
place seated for fifty, and standing in a green 
by the burn-side among two-score grave- 
stones. The manse close by, although no 
02 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 93 

more than a cottage, is surrounded by the 
brightness of a flower-garden and the straw 
roofs of bees ; and the whole colony, kirk 
and manse, garden and graveyard, finds har- 
bourage in a grove of rowans, and is all the 
year round in a great silence broken only by 
the drone of the bees, the tinkle of the burn, 
and the bell on Sundays. A mile beyond the 
kirk the road leaves the valley by a precipi- 
tous ascent, and brings you a little after to 
the place of Hermiston, where it comes to 
an end in the back-yard before the coach- 
house. All beyond and about is the great 
field of the hills ; the plover, the curlew, and 
the lark cry there ; the wind blows as it blows 
in a ship's rigging, hard and cold and pure ; 
and the hill-tops huddle one behind another 
like a herd of cattle into the sunset. 

The house was sixty years old, unsightly, 
comfortable ; a farmyard and a kitchen- 
garden on the left, with a fruit wall where 
little hard green pears came to their maturity 
about the end of October. 

The policy (as who should say the park) 
was of some extent, but very ill reclaimed ; 



94 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

heather and moorfowl.had crossed the bound- 
ary wall and spread and roosted within ; and 
it would have tasked a landscape gardener to 
say where policy ended and unpolicied nature 
began. My lord had been led by the influ- 
ence of Mr. Sheriff Scott into a considerable 
design of planting ; many acres were accord- 
ingly set out with fir, and the little feathery 
besoms gave a false scale and lent a strange 
air of a toy-shop to the moors. A great, 
rooty sweetness of bogs was in the air, and 
at all seasons an infinite melancholy piping of 
hill birds. Standing so high and with so little 
shelter, it was a cold, exposed house, splashed 
by showers, drenched by continuous rains that 
made the gutters to spout, beaten upon and 
buffeted by all the winds of heaven ; and the 
prospect would be often black with tempest, 
and often white with the snows of winter. 
But the house was wind and weather proof, 
the hearths were kept bright, and the rooms 
pleasant with live fires of peat ; and Archie 
might sit of an evening and hear the squalls 
bugle on the moorland, and watch the fire 
prosper in the earthy fuel, and the smoke 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 95 

winding up the chimney, and drink deep of 
the pleasures of shelter. 

Solitary as the place was, Archie did not 
want neighbours. Every night, if he chose, 
he might go down to the manse and share a 
"brewst" of toddy with the minister a 
hare-brained ancient gentleman, long and 
light and still active, though his knees were 
loosened with age, and his voice broke con- 
tinually in childish trebles and his lady 
wife, a heavy, comely dame, without a word 
to say for herself beyond good even and good 
day. Harum-scarum, clodpole young lairds 
of the neighbourhood paid him the compli- 
ment of a visit. Young Hay of Romanes 
rode down to call, on his crop-eared pony; 
young Pringle of Drumanno came up on 
his bony grey. Hay remained on the hos- 
pitable field, and must be carried to bed; 
Pringle -got somehow to his saddle about 3 
a.m., and (as Archie stood with the lamp on 
the upper doorstep) lurched, uttered a sense- 
less view hal'loa, and vanished out of the 
small circle of illumination like a wraith. 
Yet a minute or two longer the clatter of 



96 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

his break-neck flight was audible, then it was 
cut off by the intervening steepness of the 
hill; and again, a great while after, the re- 
newed beating of phantom horse-hoofs, far 
in the valley of the Hermiston, showed that 
the horse at least, if not his rider, was still 
on the homeward way. 

There was a Tuesday club at the " Cross- 
keys" in Crossmichael, where the young 
bloods of the country-side congregated and 
drank deep on a percentage of the expense, 
so that he was left gainer who should have 
drunk the most. Archie had no great mind 
to this diversion, but he took it like a duty 
laid upon him, went with a decent regularity, 
did his manfullest with the liquor, held up 
his head in the local jests, and got home 
again and was able to put up his horse, to 
the admiration of Kirstie and the lass that 
helped her. He dined at Driffel, supped at 
Windielaws. He went to the new year's 
ball at Huntsfield and was made welcome, 
and thereafter rode to hounds with my Lord 
Muirfell, upon whose name, as that of a 
legitimate Lord of Parliament, in a work so 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 97 

full of Lords of Session, my pen should 
pause reverently. Yet the same fate 
attended him here as in Edinburgh. The 
habit of solitude tends to perpetuate itself, 
and an austerity of which he was quite un- 
conscious, and a pride which seemed arro- 
gance, and perhaps was chiefly shyness, dis- 
couraged and offended his new companions. 
Hay did not return more than twice, Pringle 
never at all, and there came a time when 
Archie even desisted from the Tuesday Club, 
and became in all things what he had had 
the name of almost from the first the Re- 
cluse of Hermiston. High-nosed Miss 
Pringle of Drumanno and high-stepping 
Miss Marshall of the Mains were under- 
stood to have had a difference of opinion 
about him the day after the ball he was 
none the wiser, he could not suppose himself 
to be remarked by these entrancing ladies. 
At the ball itself my Lord MuirfeH's daugh- 
ter, the Lady Flora, spoke to him twice, and 
the second time with a touch of appeal, so 
that her colour rose and her voice trembled 
a little in his ear, like a passing grace in 



9 s WEIR OF HERMISTON 

music. He stepped back with a heart on 
fire, coldly and not ungracefully excused him- 
self, and a little after watched her dancing 
with young Drumanno ' of the empty laugh, 
and was harrowed at the sight, and raged to 
himself that this was a world in which it was 
given to Drumanno to please, and to himself 
only to stand aside and envy. He seemed 
excluded, as of right, from the favour of 
such society seemed to extinguish mirth 
wherever he came, and was quick to feel the 
wound, and desist, and retire into solitude. 
If he had but understood the figure he pre- 
sented, and the impression he made on these 
bright eyes and tender hearts; if he had but 
guessed that the Recluse of Hermiston, 
young, graceful, well spoken, but always 
cold, stirred the maidens of the county with 
the charm of Byronism when Byronism was 
new, it may be questioned whether his des- 
tiny might not even yet have been modified. 
It may be questioned, and I think it should 
be doubted. It was in his horoscope to be 
parsimonious of pain to himself, or of the 
chance of pain, even to the avoidance of any 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 99 

opportunity of pleasure; to have a Roman 
sense of duty, an instinctive aristocracy of 
manners and taste; to be the son of Adam 
Weir and Jean Rutherford. 

n. KIRSTIE 

Kirstie was now over fifty, and might have 
sat to a sculptor. Long of limb and still 
light of foot, deep-breasted, robust-loined, 
her golden hair not yet mingled with any 
trace of silver, the years had but caressed and 
embellished her. By the lines of a rich and 
vigorous maternity, she seemed destined to 
be the bride of heroes and the mother of 
their children ; and behold, by the iniquity of 
fate, she had passed through her youth alone, 
and drew near to the confines of age, a child- 
less woman. The tender ambitions that she 
had received at birth had been, by time and 
disappointment, diverted into a certain barren 
zeal of industry and fury of interference. 
She carried her thwarted ardours into house- 
work, she washed floors with her empty 
heart. If she could not win the love of one 
with love, she must dominate all by her tern- 



ioo WEIR OF HERMISTON 

per. Hasty, wordy, and wrathful, she had a 
drawn quarrel with most of her neighbours, 
and with the others not much more than 
armed neutrality. The grieve's wife had 
been " sneisty ;" the sister of the gardener 
who kept house for him had shown herself 
" upsitten ;" and she wrote to Lord Hermis- 
ton about once a year demanding the dis- 
charge of the offenders, and justifying the 
demand by much wealth of detail. For it 
must not be supposed that the quarrel rested 
with the wife and did not take in the husband 
also or with the gardener's sister, and did 
not speedily include the gardener himself. 
As the upshot of all this petty quarrelling 
and intemperate speech, she was practically 
excluded (like a lightkeeper on his tower) 
from the comforts of human association ; ex- 
cept with her own indoor drudge, who, being 
but a lassie and entirely at her mercy, must 
submit to the shifty weather of "the mistress's " 
moods without complaint, and be willing to 
take buffets or caresses according to the 
temper of the hour. To Kirstie, thus situate 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 101 

and in the Indian summer of her heart, which 
was slow to submit to age, the gods sent this 
equivocal good thing of Archie's presence. 
She had known him in the cradle and pad- 
dled him when he misbehaved ; and yet, as 
she had not so much as set eyes on him 
since he was eleven and had his last serious 
illness, the tall, slender, refined, and rather 
melancholy young gentleman of twenty came 
upon her with the shock of a new acquaint- 
ance. He was " Young Hermiston," " the 
laird himsel' j" he had an air of distinctive 
superiority, a cold straight glance of his black 
eyes, that abashed the woman's tantrums in 
the beginning, and therefore the possibility 
of any quarrel was excluded. He was new, 
and therefore immediately aroused her curi- 
osity ; he was reticent, and kept it awake. 
And lastly he was dark and she fair, and he 
was male and she female, the everlasting 
fountains of interest. 

Her feeling partook of the loyalty of a 
clanswoman, the hero-worship of a maiden 
aunt, and the idolatry due to a god. No 
matter what he had asked of her, ridiculous 



102 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

or tragic, she would have done it and joyed 
to do it. Her passion, for it was nothing 
less, entirely filled her. It was a rich physi- 
cal pleasure to make his bed or light his 
lamp for him when he was absent, to pull 
off" his wet boots or wait on him at dinner 
when he returned. A young man who 
should have so doted on the idea, moral and 
physical, of any woman, might be properly 
described as being in love, head and heels, 
and would have behaved himself accordingly. 
But Kirstie though her heart leaped at his 
coming footsteps though, when he patted 
her shoulder, her face brightened for the day 
had not a hope or thought beyond the 
present moment and its perpetuation to the 
end of time. Till the end of time she would 
have had nothing altered, but still continue 
delightedly to serve her idol, and be repaid 
(say twice in the month) with a clap on the 
shoulder. 

I have said her heart leaped it is the ac- 
cepted phrase. But rather, when she was 
alone in any chamber of the house, and 
heard his foot passing on the corridors, some- 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 103 

thing in her bosom rose slowly until her 
breath was suspended, and as slowly fell 
again with a deep sigh, when the steps had 
passed and she was disappointed of her eyes' 
desire. This perpetual hunger and thirst of 
his presence kept her all day on the alert. 
When he went forth at morning, she would 
stand and follow him with admiring looks. 
As it grew late and drew to the time of his 
return, she would steal forth to a corner of 
the policy wall and be seen standing there 
sometimes by the hour together, gazing with 
shaded eyes, waiting the exquisite and barren 
pleasure of his view a mile off on the moun- 
tains. When at night she had trimmed and 
gathered the fire, turned down his bed, and 
laid out his night-gear when there was no 
more to be done for the king's pleasure, but 
to remember him fervently in her usually 
very tepid prayers, and go to bed brooding 
upon his perfections, his future career, and 
what she should give him the next day for 
dinner there still remained before her one 
more opportunity ; she was still to take in 
the tray and say good-night. Sometimes 



104 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Archie would glance up from his book with 
a pre-occupied nod and a perfunctory salu- 
tation which was in truth a dismissal ; some- 
times and by degrees more often the 
volume would be laid aside, he would meet 
her coming with a look of relief; and the 
conversation would be engaged, last out the 
supper, and be prolonged till the small hours 
by the waning fire. It was no wonder that 
Archie was fond of company after his soli- 
tary days ; and Kirstie, upon her side, exerted 
all the arts of her vigorous nature to ensnare 
his attention. She would keep back some 
piece of news during dinner to be fired off 
with the entrance of the supper tray, and 
form as it were the lever de rideau of the 
evening's entertainment. Once he had heard 
her tongue wag, she made sure of the result. 
From one subject to another she moved by 
insidious transitions, fearing the least silence, 
fearing almost to give him time for an 
answer lest it should slip into a hint of sep- 
aration. Like so many people of her class, 
she was a brave narrator ; her place was on 
the hearth-rug and she made it a rostrum, 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 105 

miming her stories as she told them, fitting 
them with vital detail, spinning them out 
with endless " quo' he's " and " quo' she's," 
her voice sinking into a whisper over the 
supernatural or the horrific ; until she would 
suddenly spring up in affected surprise, and 
pointing to the clock, " Mercy, Mr. Archie !" 
she would say, " Whatten a time o' night is 
this of it ! God forgive me for a daft wife ! " 
So it befell, by good management, that she 
was not only the first to begin these nocturnal 
conversations, but invariably the first to 
break them off; so she managed to retire 
and not to be dismissed. 

III. A BORDER FAMILY 

Such an unequal intimacy has never been 
uncommon in Scotland, where the clan spirit 
survives ; where the servant tends to spend 
her life in the same service, a helpmeet at 
first, then a tyrant, and at last a pensioner ; 
where, besides, she is not necessarily destitute 
of the pride of birth, but is, perhaps, like 
Kirstie, a connection of her master's, and at 
least knows the legend of her own family, 



io6 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

and may count kinship with some illustrious 
dead. For that is the mark of the Scot of all 
classes: that he stands in an attitude towards 
the past unthinkable to Englishmen, and re- 
members and cherishes the memory of his 
forbears, good or bad ; and there burns alive 
in him a sense of identity with the dead even 
to the twentieth generation. No more char- 
acteristic instance could be found than in the 
family of Kirstie Elliott. They were all, and 
Kirstie the first of all, ready and eager to pour 
forth the particulars of their genealogy, embel- 
lished with every detail that memory had hand- 
ed down or fancy fabricated; and, behold! from 
every ramification of that tree there dangled 
a halter. The Elliotts themselves have had 
a chequered history ; but these Elliotts de- 
duced, besides, from three of the most un- 
fortunate of the border clans the Nicksons, 
the Ellwalds, and the Crozers. One ances- 
tor after another might be seen appearing a 
moment out of the rain and the hill mist 
upon his furtive business, speeding home, 
perhaps, with a paltry booty of lame horses 
and lean kine, or squealing and dealing death 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 107 

in some moorland feud of the ferrets and the 
wildcats. One after another closed his ob- 
scure adventures in mid-air, triced up to the 
arm of the royal gibbet or the Baron's dule- 
tree. For the rusty blunderbuss of Scots 
criminal justice, which usually hurts nobody 
but jurymen, became a weapon of precision 
for the Nicksons, the Ellwalds, and the 
Crozers. The exhilaration of their exploits 
seemed to haunt the memories of their de- 
scendants alone, and the shame to be forgot- 
ten. Pride glowed in their bosoms to publish 
their relationship to " Andrew Ellwald of the 
Laverockstanes, called c Unchancy Dand,' 
who was justifeed wi' seeven mair of the 
same name at Jeddart in the days of King 
James the Sax." In all this tissue of crime 
and misfortune, the Elliotts of Cauldstane- 
slap had one boast which must appear legiti- 
mate : the males were gallows-birds, born out- 
laws, petty thieves, and deadly brawlers; but 
according to the same tradition, the females 
were all chaste and faithful. The power of 
ancestry on the character is not limited to the 
inheritance of cells. If I buy ancestors by 



io8 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

the gross from the benevolence of Lion King 
at Arms, my grandson (if he is Scottish) will 
feel a quickening emulation of their deeds. 
The men of the Elliotts were proud, lawless, 
violent as of right, cherishing and prolonging 
a tradition. In like manner with the women. 
And the women, essentially passionate and 
reckless, who crouched on the rug, in the 
shine of the peat fire, telling these tales, had 
cherished through life a wild integrity of vir- 
tue. 

Her father Gilbert had been deeply pious, 
a savage disciplinarian in the antique style, 
and withal a notorious smuggler. " I mind 
when I was a bairn getting mony a skelp 
and being shoo'd to bed like pou'try," she 
would say. " That would be when the lads 
and their bit kegs were on the road. We've 
had the riffraff of two-three counties in our 
kitchen, mony's the time, betwix' the twelve 
and the three ; and their lanterns would be 
standing in the forecourt, ay, a score o' them 
at once. But there was nae ungodly talk 
permitted at Cauldstaneslap ; my faither was 
a consistent man in walk and conversation j 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 109 

just let slip an aith, and there was the door 
to ye ! He had that zeal for the Lord, it was 
a fair wonder to hear him pray, but the 
faimily has aye had a gift that way." This 
father was twice married, once to a dark 
woman of the old Ellwald stock, by whom 
he had Gilbert, presently of Cauldstaneslap ; 
and, secondly, to the mother of Kirstie. 
" He was an auld man when he married 
her, a fell auld man wi' a muckle voice 
you could hear him rowting from the top o' 
the kye-stairs," she said ; " but for her, it 
appears, she was a perfit wonder. It was 
gentle blood she had, Mr. Archie, for it was 
your ain. The country-side gaed gyte about 
her and her gowden hair. Mines is no to be 
mentioned wi' it, and there's few weemen 
has mair hair than what I have, or yet a bon- 
nier colour. Often would I tell my dear 
Miss Jeannie that was your mother, dear, 
she was cruel ta'en up about her hair, it was 
unco tender, ye see l Houts, Miss Jean- 
nie,' I would say, 'just fling your washes and 
your French dentifrishes in the back o' the 



no WEIR OF HERMISTON 

fire, for that's the place for them ; and awa' 
down to a burn-side, and wash yersel in cauld 
hill water, and dry your bonny hair in the 
caller wind o' the muirs, the way that my 
mother aye washed hers, and that I have aye 
made it a practice to have washen mines 
just you do what I tell ye, my dear, and ye'll 
give me news of it ! Ye'll have hair, and 
routh of hair, a pigtail as thick's my arm,' I 
said, ' and the bonniest colour like the clear 
gowden guineas, so as the lads in kirk'll no 
can keep their eyes off it ! ' Weel, it lasted 
out her time, puir thing ! I cuttit a lock of 
it upon her corp that was lying there sae 
cauld. I'll show it ye some of thir days if 
ye're good. But, as I was sayin', my 

midier " 

On the death of the father there re- 
mained golden-haired Kirstie, who took ser- 
vice with her distant kinsfolk, the Ruther- 
fords, and black-a-vised Gilbert, twenty 
years older, who farmed the Cauldstane- 
slap, married, and begot four sons between 
1773 and 1784, and a daughter, like a post- 
script, in '97, the year of Camperdown and 



WINTER ON THE MOORS in 

Cape St. Vincent. It seemed it was a tra- 
dition of the family to wind up with a be- 
lated girl. In 1804, at tne a g e f sixty, 
Gilbert met an end that might be called 
heroic. He was due home from market any 
time from eight at night till five in the 
morning, and in any condition from the quar- 
relsome to the speechless, for he maintained 
to that age the goodly customs of the Scots 
farmer. It was known on this occasion that 
he had a good bit of money to bring home ; 
the word had gone round loosely. The laird 
had shown his guineas, and if anybody had 
but noticed it, there was an ill-looking, vaga- 
bond crew, the scum of Edinburgh, that 
drew out of the market long ere it was dusk 
and took the hill-road by Hermiston, where 
it was not to be believed that they had lawful 
business. One of the country-side, one 
Dickieson, they took with them to be their 
guide, and dear he paid for it ! Of a sudden, 
in the ford of the Broken Dykes, this vermin 
clan fell on the laird, six to one, and him 
three parts asleep, having drunk hard. But it 
is ill to catch an Elliott. For awhile, in the 



H3 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

night and the black water that was deep as to 
his saddle-girths, he wrought with his staff 
like a smith at his stithy, and great was the 
sound of oaths and blows. With that the 
ambuscade was burst, and he rode for home 
with a pistol-ball in him, three knife-wounds, 
the loss of his front teeth, a broken rib and 
bridle, and a dying horse. That was a race 
with death that the laird rode ! In the mirk 
night, with his broken bridle and his head 
swimming, he dug his spurs to the rowels in 
the horse's side, and the horse, that was even 
worse off than himself, the poor creature ! 
screamed out loud like a person as he went, 
so that the hills echoed with it, and the folks 
at Cauldstaneslap got to their feet about the 
table and looked at each other with white 
faces. The horse fell dead at the yard gate, 
the laird won the length of the house and fell 
there on the threshold. To the son that 
raised him he gave the bag of money. " Hae," 
said he. All the way up the thieves had 
seemed to him to be at his heels, but now 
the hallucination left him he saw them 
again in the place of the ambuscade and 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 113 

the thirst of vengeance seized on his dying 
mind. Raising himself and pointing with an 
imperious finger into the black night from 
which he had come, he uttered the single 
command, " Brocken Dykes," and fainted. 
He had never been loved, but he had been 
feared in honour. At that sight, at that 
word, gasped out at them from a toothless 
and bleeding mouth, the old Elliott spirit 
awoke with a shout in the four sons. 
" Wanting the hat," continues my author, 
Kirstie, whom I but haltingly follow, for she 
told this tale like one inspired, " wanting 
guns, for there wasnae twa grains o' pouder 
in the house, wi' nae mair weepons than 
their sticks into their hands, the fower o' 
them took the road. Only Hob, and that 
was the eldest, hunkered at the door-sill 
where the blood had rin, fyled his hand wi' 
it, and haddit it up to Heeven in the way o' 
the auld Border aith. ' Hell shall have her 
ain again this nicht ! ' he raired, and rode 
forth upon his errand." It was three miles 
to Broken Dykes, down hill, and a sore road. 



H4 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Kirstie has seen men from Edinburgh dis- 
mounting there in plain day to lead their 
horses. But the four brothers rode it as if 
Auld Hornie were behind and Heaven in 
front. Come to the ford, and there was 
Dickieson. By all tales, he was not dead, 
but breathed and reared upon his elbow, and 
cried out to them for help. It was at a grace- 
less face that he asked mercy. As soon as 
Hob saw, by the glint of the lantern, the 
eyes shining and the whiteness of the teeth 
in the man's face, " Damn you ! " says he ; 
" ye hae your teeth, hae ye ? " and rode his 
horse to and fro upon that human remnant. 
Beyond that, Dandie must dismount with the 
lantern to be their guide ; he was the young- 
est son, scarce twenty at the time. " A' 
nicht long they gaed in the wet heath and 
jennipers, and whaur they gaed they neither 
knew nor cared, but just followed the bluid- 
stains and the footprints o' their faither's 
murderers. And a' nicht Dandie had his 
nose to the grund like a tyke, and the ithers 
followed and spak' naething, neither black 
nor white. There was nae noise to be 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 115 

heard, but just the sough of the swalled 
burns, and Hob, the dour yin, risping his 
teeth as he gaed." With the first glint of 
the morning they saw they were on the 
drove road, and at that the four stopped 
and had a dram to their breakfasts, for they 
knew that Dand must have guided them 
right, and the rogues could be but little 
ahead, hot foot for Edinburgh by the way of 
the Pentland Hills. By eight o'clock they 
had word of them a shepherd had seen 
four men " uncoly mishandled " go by in the 
last hour. " That's yin a piece," says Clem, 
and swung his cudgel. " Five o' them ! " 
says Hob. " God's death, but the faither 
was a man ! And him drunk ! " And then 
there befell them what my author termed " a 
sair misbegowk," for they were overtaken by 
a posse of mounted neighbors come to aid in 
the pursuit. Four sour faces looked on the 
reinforcement. "The deil's broughten you!" 
said Clem, and they rode thenceforward in 
the rear of the party with hanging heads. 
Before ten they had found and secured the 



n6 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

rogues, and by three of the afternoon, as 
they rode up the Vennel with their prisoners, 
they were aware of a concourse of people 
bearing in their midst something that dripped. 
" For the boady of the saxt," pursued Kirs- 
tie, " wi' his head smashed like a hazelnit, 
had been a' that nicht in the chairge o' Her- 
miston Water, and it dunting it on the 
stanes, and grunding it on the shallows, and 
flinging the deid thing heels-ower-hurdie at 
the Fa's o' Spango; and in the first o' the day 
Tweed had got a hold o' him and carried 
him off like a wind, for it was uncoly swalled 
and raced wi' him, bobbing under brae- 
sides, and was long playing with the creature 
in the drumlie lynns under the castle, and at 
the hinder end of all cuist him up on the 
starling of Crossmichael brig. Sae there they 
were a' thegither at last (for Dickieson had 
been brought in on a cart long syne), and 
folk could see what mainner o' man my 
brither had been that had held his head 
again sax and saved the siller, and him 
drunk ! " Thus died of honourable injuries 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 117 

and in the savour of fame Gilbert Elliott of 
the Cauldstaneslap ; but his sons had scarce 
less glory out of the business. Their savage 
haste, the skill with which Dand had found 
and followed the trail, the barbarity to the 
wounded Dickieson (which was like an open 
secret in the county) and the doom which it 
was currently supposed they had intended for 
the others, struck and stirred popular imagi- 
nation. Some century earlier the last of the 
minstrels might have fashioned the last of 
the ballads out of that Homeric fight and 
chase ; but the spirit was dead, or had been 
reincarnated already in Mr. Sheriff Scott, and 
the degenerate moorsmen must be content to 
tell the tale in prose and to make of the 
" Four Black Brothers " a unit after the 
fashion of the " Twelve Apostles " or the 
" Three Musketeers." 

Robert, Gilbert, Clement, and Andrew 
in the proper Border diminutive, Hob, Gib, 
Clem and Dand Elliott these ballad heroes 
had much in common; in particular, their 
high sense of the family and the family hon- 
our; but they went diverse ways, and pros- 



Il8 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

pered and failed in different businesses. Ac- 
cording to Kirstie, "they had a' bees in their 
bonnets but Hob." Hob the laird was, 
indeed, essentially a decent man. An elder 
of the Kirk, nobody had heard an oath upon 
his lips, save, perhaps, thrice or so at the 
sheep-washing, since the chase of his father's 
murderers. The figure he had shown on 
that eventful night disappeared as if swal- 
lowed by a trap. He who had ecstatically 
dipped his hand in the - red blood, he who had 
ridden down Dickieson, became, from that 
moment on, a stiff and rather graceless model 
of the rustic proprieties; cannily profiting by 
the high war prices, and yearly stowing away 
a little nest-egg in the bank against calamity; 
approved of and sometimes consulted by the 
greater lairds for the massive and placid sense 
of what he said, when he could be induced 
to say anything; and particularly valued by 
the minister, Mr. Torrance, as a righthand 
man in the parish, and a model to parents. 
The transfiguration had been for the moment 
only; some Barbarossa, some old Adam of 
our ancestors, sleeps in all of us till the fit 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 119 

circumstance shall call it into action; and 
for as sober as he now seemed, Hob had 
given once for all the measure of the devil 
that haunted him. He was married, and, by 
reason of the effulgence of that legendary 
night, was adored by his wife. He had a 
mob of little lusty, barefoot children who 
marched in a caravan the long miles to 
school, the stages of whose pilgrimage were 
marked by acts of spoliation and mischief, 
and who were qualified in the country-side 
as "fair pests." But in the house, if "faither 
was in," they were quiet as mice. In short, 

Hob moved through life in a great peace 

the reward of anyone who shall have killed 
his man, with any formidable and figurative 
circumstance, in the midst of a country 
gagged and swaddled with civilisation. 

It was a current remark that the Elliotts 
were " guid and bad, like sanguishes " ; and 
certainly there was a curious distinction, the 
men of business coming alternately with the 
dreamers. The second brother, Gib, was a 
weaver by trade, had gone out early into the 
world to Edinburgh, and come home again 



120 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

with his wings singed. There was an exalta- 
tion in his nature which had led him to em- 
brace with enthusiasm the principles of the 
French Revolution, and had ended by bring- 
ing him under the hawse of my Lord Her- 
miston in that furious onslaught of his upon 
the Liberals, which sent Muir and Palmer 
into exile and dashed the party into chaff. It 
was whispered that my lord, in his great scorn 
for the movement, and prevailed upon a little 
by a sense of neighbourliness, had given Gib 
a hint. Meeting him one day in the Potter- 
row, my lord had stopped in front of him. 
" Gib, ye eediot," he had said, " what's this I 
hear of you ? Poalitics, poalitics, poalitics, 
weaver's poalitics, is the way of it, I hear. 
If ye arenae a' thegether dozened with eedi- 
ocy, ye'll gang your ways back to Cauld- 
staneslap, and ca' your loom, and ca' your 
loom, man ! " And Gilbert had taken him 
at the word and returned, with an expedition 
almost to be called flight, to the house of his 
father. The clearest of his inheritance was 
that family gift of prayer of which Kirstie 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 12 1 

had boasted ; and the baffled politician now 
turned his attention to religious matters or, 
as others said, to heresy and schism. Every 
Sunday morning he was in Crossmichael, 
where he had gathered together, one by one, 
a sect of about a dozen persons, who called 
themselves " God's Remnant of the True 
Faithful," or, for short, " God's Remnant." 
To the profane, they were known as " Gib's 
Deils." Baillie Sweedie, a noted humorist 
in the town, vowed that the proceedings 
always opened to the tune of " The Deil Fly 
Away with the Exciseman," and that the 
sacrament was dispensed in the form of hot 
whiskey toddy ; both wicked hits at the 
evangelist, who had been suspected of smug- 
gling in his youth, and had been overtaken 
(as the phrase went) on the streets of Cross- 
michael one Fair day. It was known that 
every Sunday they prayed for a blessing on 
the arms of Bonaparte. For this, " God's 
Remnant," as they were " skailing " from the 
cottage that did duty for a temple, had been 
repeatedly stoned by the bairns, and Gib him- 



122 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

self hooted by a squadron of Border volun- 
teers in which his own brother, Dand, rode 
in a uniform and with a drawn sword. The 
" Remnant " were believed, besides, to be 
" antinomian in principle," which might 
otherwise have been a serious charge, but the 
way public opinion then blew it was quite 
swallowed up and forgotten in the scandal 
about Bonaparte. For the rest, Gilbert had 
set up his loom in an outhouse at Cauld- 
staneslap, where he laboured assiduously six 
days of the week. His brothers, appalled 
by his political opinions and willing to avoid 
dissension in the household, spoke but little 
to him ; he less to them, remaining absorbed 
in the study of the Bible and almost constant 
prayer. The gaunt weaver was dry-nurse at 
Cauldstaneslap, and the bairns loved him 
dearly. Except when he was carrying an 
infant in his arms, he was rarely seen to 
smile as, indeed, there were few smilers in 
that family. When his sister-in-law rallied 
him, and proposed that he should get a wife 
and bairns of his own, since he was so fond 
of them, " I have no clearness of mind upon 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 123 

that point," he would reply. If nobody 
called him in to dinner, he stayed out. Mrs. 
Hob, a hard, unsympathetic woman, once 
tried the experiment. He went without food 
all day, but at dusk, as the light began to fail 
him, he came into the house of his own ac- 
cord, looking puzzled. " I've had a great 
gale of prayer upon my speerit," said he. 
" I canna mind sae muckle's what I had for 
denner." The creed of God's Remnant was 
justified in the life of its founder. " And 
yet I dinna ken," said Kirstie. " He's maybe 
no more stockfish than his neeghbours ! He 
rode wi' the rest o' them, and had a good 
stamach to the work, by a' that I hear ! God's 
Remnant ! The deil's clavers ! There 
wasna muckle Christianity in the way Hob 
guided Johnny Dickieson, at the least of it ; 
but Guid kens ! Is he a Christian even ? 
He might be a Mahommedan or a Deevil or 
a Fireworshipper, for what I ken." 

The third brother had his name on a door- 
plate, no less, in the city of Glasgow, " Mr. 
Clement Elliott," as long as your arm. In 
his case, that spirit of innovation which had 



124 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

shown itself timidly in the case of Hob by 
the admission of new manures, and which 
had run to waste with Gilbert in subversive 
politics and heretical religions, bore useful 
fruit in many ingenious mechanical improve- 
ments. In boyhood, from his addiction to 
strange devices of sticks and string, he had 
been counted the most eccentric of the family. 
But that was all by now, and he was a part- 
ner of his firm, and looked to die a baillie. 
He too had married, and was rearing a 
plentiful family in the smoke and din of Glas- 
gow ; he was wealthy, and could have bought 
out his brother, the cock-laird, six times 
over, it was whispered ; and when he slipped 
away to Cauldstaneslap for a well-earned 
holiday, which he did as often as he was 
able, he astonished the neighbours with his 
broadcloth, his beaver hat, and the ample 
plies of his neck-cloth. Though an emi- 
nently solid man at bottom, after the pattern 
of Hob, he had contracted a certain Glasgow 
briskness and aplomb which set him off. All 
the other Elliotts were as lean as a rake, but 
Clement was laying on fat, and he panted 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 125 

sorely when he must get into his boots. 
Dand said, chuckling : " Ay, Clem has the 
elements of a corporation." " A provost 
and corporation," returned Clem. And his 
readiness was much admired. 

The fourth brother, Dand, was a shepherd 
to his trade, and by starts, when he could 
bring his mind to it, excelled in the business. 
Nobody could train a dog like Dandie ; 
nobody, through the peril of great storms in 
the winter time, could do more gallantly. 
But if his dexterity were exquisite, his dili- 
gence was but fitful ; and he served his 
brother for bed and board, and a trifle of 
pocket-money when he asked for it. He 
loved money well enough, knew very well 
how to spend it, and could make a shrewd 
bargain when he liked. But he preferred a 
vague knowledge that he was well to wind- 
ward to any counted coins in the pocket ; 
he felt himself richer so. Hob would expos- 
tulate : " I'm an amature herd," Dand would 
reply : " I'll keep your sheep to you when 
I'm so minded, but I'll keep my liberty too. 
Thir's no man can coandescend on what 



126 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

I'm worth." Clem would expound to him 
the miraculous results of compound interest, 
and recommend investments. "Ay, man ?" 
Dand would say, " and do you think, if I 
took Hob's siller, that I wouldna drink it 
or wear it on the lassies ? And, anyway, 
my kingdom is no of this world. Either 
I'm a poet or else I'm nothing." Clem 
would remind him of old age. " I'll die 
young, like Robbie Burns," he would say 
stoutly. No question but he had a certain 
accomplishment in minor verse. His " Her- 
miston Burn," with its pretty refrain 

"I love to gang thinking whaur ye gang linking, 
Hermiston burn, in the howe;" 

his "Auld, auld Elliotts, clay-cauld Elliotts, 
dour, bauld Elliotts of auld," and his really 
fascinating piece about the Praying Weaver's 
Stone, had gained him in the neighbourhood 
the reputation, still possible in Scotland, of a 
local bard ; and, though not printed himself, 
he was recognized by others who were and 
who had become famous. Walter Scott 
owed to Dandie the text of the " Raid of 
Wearie " in the Minstrelsy and made him 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 127 

welcome at his house, and appreciated his 
talents, such as they were, with all his usual 
generosity. The Ettrick Shepherd was his 
sworn crony ; they would meet, drink to 
excess, roar out their lyrics in each other's 
faces, and quarrel and make it up again till 
bedtime. And besides these recognitions, 
almost to be called official, Dandie was made 
welcome for the sake of his gift through the 
farmhouses of several contiguous dales, and 
was thus exposed to manifold temptations 
which he rather sought than fled. He had 
figured on the stool of repentance, for once 
fulfilling to the letter the tradition of his hero 
and model. His humorous verses to Mr. 
Torrance on that occasion " Kenspeckle 
here my lane I stand " unfortunately too 
indelicate for further citation, ran through 
the country like a fiery cross ; they were re- 
cited, quoted, paraphrased and laughed over 
as far away as Dumfries on the one hand and 
Dunbar on the other. 

These four brothers were united by a 
close bond, the bond of that mutual ad- 
miration or rather mutual hero-worship 



128 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

which is so strong among the members 
of secluded families who have much ability 
and little culture. Even the extremes 
admired each other. Hob, who had as 
much poetry as the tongs, professed to 
find pleasure in Band's verses ; Clem, who 
had no more religion than Claverhouse, 
nourished a heartfelt, at least an open- 
mouthed, admiration of Gib's prayers; and 
Dandie followed with relish the rise of 
Clem's fortunes. Indulgence followed hard 
on the heels of admiration. The laird, 
Clem and Dand, who were Tories and 
patriots of the hottest quality, excused to 
themselves, with a certain bashfulness, the 
radical and revolutionary heresies of Gib. 
By another division of the family, the laird, 
Clem, and Gib, who were men exactly vir- 
tuous, swallowed the dose of Dand's irregu- 
larities as a kind of clog or drawback in the 
mysterious providence of God affixed to 
bards, and distinctly probative of poetical 
genius. To appreciate the simplicity of 
their mutual admiration, it was necessary to 
hear Clem, arrived upon one of his visits, 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 129 

and dealing in a spirit of continuous irony 
with the affairs and personalities of that great 
city of Glasgow where he lived and trans- 
acted business. The various personages, 
ministers of the church, municipal officers, 
mercantile big-wigs, whom he had occasion 
to introduce, were all alike denigrated, all 
served but as reflectors to cast back a flatter- 
ing side-light on the house of Cauldstaneslap. 
The Provost, for whom Clem by exception 
entertained a measure of respect, he would 
liken to Hob. "He minds me o' the laird 
there," he would say. "He has some of 
Hob's grand, whun-stane sense, and the same 
way with him of steiking his mouth when 
he 's no very pleased." And Hob, all un- 
conscious, would draw down his upper lip 
and produce, as if for comparison, the for- 
midable grimace referred to. The unsatis- 
factory incumbent of St. Enoch's Kirk was 
thus briefly dismissed: "If he had but twa 
fingers o' Gib's he would waken them up." 
And Gib, honest man ! would look down and 
secretly smile. Clem was a spy whom they 
had sent out into the world of men. He had 



130 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

come back with the good news that there 
was nobody to compare with the Four Black 
Brothers, no position that they would not 
adorn, no official that it would not be well 
they should replace, no interest of mankind, 
secular or spiritual, which would not imme- 
diately bloom under their supervision. The 
excuse of their folly is in two words: scarce 
the breadth of a hair divided them from the 
peasantry. The measure of their sense is 
this: that these symposia of rustic vanity 
were kept entirely within the family, like 
some secret ancestral practice. To the 
world their serious faces were never deformed 
by the suspicion of any simper of self-con- 
tentment. Yet it was known. "They hae 
a guid pride o' themsel's ! " was the word in 
the country-side. 

Lastly, in a Border story, there should be 
added their " two-names." Hob was The 
Laird. " Roy ne puis, prince ne daigne " ; 
he was the laird of Cauldstaneslap say fifty 
acres ipsissimus. Clement was Mr. Elliott, 
as upon his door-plate, the earlier Dafty 
having been discarded as no longer applicable, 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 131 

and indeed only a reminder of misjudgment 
and the imbecility of the public ; and the 
youngest, in honour of his perpetual wander- 
ings, was known by the sobriquet of Randy 
Band. 

It will be understood that not all this in- 
formation was communicated by the aunt, 
who had too much of the family failing her- 
self to appreciate it thoroughly in others. 
But as time went on, Archie began to ob- 
serve an omission in the family chronicle. 

" Is there not a girl too ? " he asked. 

" Ay. Kirstie. She was named from me, 
or my grandmother at least it's the same 
thing," returned the aunt, and went on again 
about Dand, whom she secretly preferred by 
reason of his gallantries. 

u But what is your niece like ? " said 
Archie at the next opportunity. 

" Her ? As black's your hat ! But I 
dinna suppose she would maybe be what you 
would ca' ill-looked a' thegither. Na, she's a 
kind of a handsome jaud a kind o' gipsy," 
said the aunt, who had two sets of scales for 
men and women or perhaps it would be 



I3 2 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

more fair to say that she had three, and the 
third and the most loaded was for girls. 

" How comes it that I never see her in 
church ? " said Archie. 

" 'Deed, and I believe she's in Glesgie with 
Clem and his wife. A heap good she's like 
to get of it ! I dinna say for men folk, but 
where weemen folk are born, there let them 
bide. Glory to God, I was never far'er from 
here than Crossmichael." 

In the meanwhile it began to strike Archie 
as strange, that while she thus sang the praises 
of her kinsfolk, and manifestly relished their 
virtues and (I may say) their vices like a 
thing creditable to herself, there should ap- 
pear not the least sign of cordiality between 
the house of Hermiston and that of Cauld- 
staneslap. Going to church of a Sunday, as 
the lady housekeeper stepped with her skirts 
kilted, three tucks of her white petticoat 
showing below, and her best India shawl upon 
her back (if the day were fine) in a pattern 
of radiant dyes, she would sometimes over- 
take her relatives preceding her more leisurely 
in the same direction. Gib of course was 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 133 

absent : by skriegh of day he had been gone 
to Crossmichael and his fellow heretics ; but 
the rest of the family would be seen march- 
ing in open order : Hob and Dand, stiff- 
necked, straight-backed six-footers, with 
severe dark faces, and their plaids about their 
shoulders ; the convoy of children scattering 
(in a state of high polish) on the wayside, 
and every now and again collected by the 
shrill summons of the mother ;* and the 
mother herself, by a suggestive circumstance 
which might have afforded matter of thought 
to a more experienced observer than Archie, 
wrapped in a shawl nearly identical with 
Kirstie's but a thought more gaudy and con- 
spicuously newer. At the sight, Kirstie grew 
more tall Kirstie showed her classical pro- 
file, nose in air and nostril spread, the pure 
blood came in her cheek evenly in a delicate 
living pink. 

"A braw day to ye, Mistress Elliott," 
said she, and hostility and gentility were 
nicely mingled in her tones. " A fine day, 
mem," the laird's wife would reply with a 
miraculous curtsey, spreading the while her 



134 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

plumage setting off, in other words, and 
with arts unknown to the mere man, the 
pattern of her India shawl. Behind her, the 
whole Cauldstaneslap contingent marched in 
closer order, and with an indescribable air of 
being in the presence of the foe ; and while 
Dandie saluted his aunt with a certain famil- 
iarity as of one who was well in court, Hob 
marched on in awful immobility. There ap- 
peared upon the face of this attitude in the 
family the consequences of some dreadful 
feud. Presumably the two women had been 
principals in the original encounter, and the 
laird had probably been drawn into the quar- 
rel by the ears, too late to be included in the 
present skin-deep reconciliation. 

u Kirstie," said Archie one day, " what is 
this you have against your family ? " 

" I dinna complean," said Kirstie, with a 
flush. " I say naething." 

" I see you do not not even good day 
to your own nephew," said he. 

" I hae naething to be ashamed of," said 
she. " I can say the Lord's prayer with a 
good grace. If Hob was ill, or in preeson or 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 135 

poverty, I would see to him blithely. But 
for curtchying and complimenting and col- 
loguing, thank ye kindly ! " 

Archie had a bit of a smile : he leaned 
back in his chair. " I think you and Mrs. 
Robert are not very good friends," says he 
slyly, " when you have your India shawls 
on ? " 

She looked upon him in silence, with a 
sparkling eye but an indecipherable expres- 
sion ; and that was all that Archie was ever 
destined to learn of the battle of the India 
shawls. 

" Do none of them ever come here to see 
you ? " he inquired. 

" Mr. Archie," said she, " I hope that I 
ken my place better. It would be a queer 
thing, I think, if I was to clamjamfry up 
your faither's house . . . that I should say 
it ! wi' a dirty, black-a-vised clan, no ane 
o' them it was worth while to mar soap upon 
but just mysel' ! Na, they're all damnifeed 
wi' the black Ellwalds. I have nae patience 
wi' black folk." Then, with a sudden con- 
sciousness of the case of Archie, " No that it 



136 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

maitters for men sae muckle," she made 
haste to add, " but there's naebody can deny 
that it's unwomanly. Long hair is the orna- 
ment o' woman ony way ; we've good war- 
randise for that it's in the Bible and 
wha can doubt that the Apostle had some 
gowden-haired lassie in his mind Apostle 
and all, for what was he but just a man like 
yersel' ? " 



Chapter VI 

A LEAF FROM CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK. 

Archie was sedulous at church. Sunday 
after Sunday he sat down and stood up with 
that small company, heard the voice of Mr. 
Torrance leaping like an ill-played clarionet 
from key to key, and had an opportunity to 
study his moth-eaten gown and the black 
thread mittens that he joined together in 
prayer, and lifted up with a reverent solemnity 
in the act of benediction. Hermiston pew 
was a little square box, dwarfish in propor- 
tion with the kirk itself, and enclosing a 
table not much bigger than a footstool. 
There sat Archie an apparent prince, the 
only undeniable gentleman and the only 
great heritor in the parish, taking his ease in 
the only pew, for no other in the kirk had 
doors. Thence he might command an un- 
disturbed view of that congregation of solid 
137 



138 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

plaided men, strapping wives and daughters, 
oppressed children, and uneasy sheep-dogs. 
It was strange how Archie missed the look 
of race; except the dogs, with their refined 
foxy faces and inimitably curling tails, there 
was no one present with the least claim to 
gentility. The Cauldstaneslap party was 
scarcely an exception; Dandie perhaps, as 
he amused himself making verses through 
the interminable burden of the service, stood 
out a little by the glow in his eye and a cer- 
tain superior animation of face and alertness 
of body; but even Dandie slouched like a 
rustic. The rest of the congregation, like 
so many sheep, oppressed him with a sense 
of hob-nailed routine, day following day 
of physical labour in the open air, oatmeal 
porridge, peas bannock, the somnolent fire- 
side in the evening, and the night-long nasal 
slumbers in a box-bed. Yet he knew many 
of them to be shrewd and humorous, men of 
character, notable women, making a bustle in 
the world and radiating an influence from 
their low-browed doors. He knew besides 
they were like other men; below the crust 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 139 

of custom, rapture found a way; he had 
heard them beat the timbrel before Bacchus 
had heard them shout and carouse over 
their whisky toddy; and not the most Dutch- 
bottomed and severe faces among them all, 
not even the solemn elders themselves, but 
were capable of singular gambols at the 
voice of love. Men drawing near to an end 
of life's adventurous journey maids thrill- 
ing with fear and curiosity on the threshold 
of entrance women who had borne and 
perhaps buried children, who could remem- 
ber the clinging of the small dead hands and 
the patter of the little feet now silent he 
marvelled that among all those faces there 
should be no face of expectation, none that 
was mobile, none into which the rhythm 
and poetry of life had entered. "O fora 
live face," he thought; and at times he had 
a memory of Lady Flora; and at times he 
would study the living gallery before him 
with despair, and would see himself go on to 
jwaste his days in that joyless, pastoral place, 
and death come to him, and his grave be dug 
under the rowans, and the Spirit of the 



H WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Earth laugh out in a thunder-peal at the 
huge fiasco. 

On this particular Sunday, there was no 
doubt but that the spring had come at last. 
It was warm, with a latent shiver in the air 
that made the warmth only the more wel- 
come. The shallows of the stream glittered 
and tinkled among bunches of primrose. 
Vagrant scents of the earth arrested Archie 
by the way with moments of ethereal intoxi- 
cation. The grey, Quakerish dale was still 
only awakened in places and patches from 
the sobriety of its wintry colouring ; and he 
wondered at its beauty ; an essential beauty 
of the old earth it seemed to him, not resi- 
dent in particulars but breathing to him from 
the whole. He surprised himself by a sud- 
den impulse to write poetry he did so 
sometimes, loose, galloping octosyllabics in 
the vein of Scott and when he had taken 
his place on a boulder, near some fairy falls 
and shaded by a whip of a tree that was 
already radiant with new leaves, it still more 
surprised him that he should find nothing to 
write. His heart perhaps beat in time to 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 141 

some vast indwelling rhythm of the universe. 
By the time he came to a corner of the val- 
ley and could see the kirk, he had so lingered 
by the way that the first psalm was finishing. 
The nasal psalmody, full of turns and trills 
and graceless graces, seemed the essential 
voice of the kirk itself upraised in thanks- 
giving. " Everything's alive," he said ; and 
again cries it aloud, " Thank God, every- 
thing's alive ! " He lingered yet awhile in 
the kirk-yard. A tuft of primroses was 
blooming hard by the leg of an old, black 
table tombstone, and he stopped to contem- 
plate the random apologue. They stood forth 
on the cold earth with a trenchancy of con- 
trast; and he was struck with a sense of 
incompleteness in the day, the season, and 
the beauty that surrounded him the chill 
there was in the warmth, the gross black 
clods about the opening primroses, the damp 
earthy smell that was everywhere inter- 
mingled with the scents. The voice of the 
aged Torrance within rose in an ecstasy. 
And he wondered if Torrance also felt in his 
old bones the joyous influence of the spring 



H 2 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

morning ; Torrance, or the shadow of what 
once was Torrance, that must come so soon 
to lie outside here in the sun and rain with 
all his rheumatisms, while a new minister 
stood in his room and thundered from his 
own familiar pulpit ? The pity of it, and 
something of the chill of the grave, shook 
him for a moment as he made haste to enter. 
He went up the aisle reverently and took 
his place in the pew with lowered eyes, for 
he feared he had already offended the kind 
old gentleman in the pulpit, and was sedulous 
to offend no farther. He could not follow 
the prayer, not even the heads of it. Bright- 
nesses of azure, clouds of fragrance, a tinkle 
of falling water and singing birds, rose like 
exhalations from some deeper, aboriginal 
memory, that was not his, but belonged to 
the flesh on his bones. His body remem- 
bered ; and it seemed to him that his body 
was in no way gross, but ethereal and perish- 
able like a strain of music ; and he felt for it 
an exquisite tenderness as for a child, an in- 
nocent, full of beautiful instincts and destined 
to an early death. And he felt for old Tor- 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 143 

ranee of the many supplications, of the few 
days a pity that was near to tears. The 
prayer ended. Right over him was a tablet 
in the wall, the only ornament in the roughly 
masoned chapel for it was no more ; the 
tablet commemorated, I was about to say the 
virtues, but rather the existence of a former 
Rutherford of Hermiston ; and Archie, under 
that trophy of his long descent and local 
greatness, leaned back in the pew and con- 
templated vacancy with the shadow of a smile 
between playful and sad, that became him 
strangely. Dandie's sister, sitting by the side 
of Clem in her new Glasgow finery, chose 
that moment to observe the young laird. 
Aware of the stir of his entrance, the little 
formalist had kept her eyes fastened and her 
face prettily composed during the prayer. It 
was not hypocrisy, there was no one farther 
from a hypocrite. The girl had been taught 
to behave : to look up, to look down, to look 
unconscious, to look seriously impressed in 
church, and in every conjuncture to look her 
best. That was the game of female life, and 
she played it frankly. Archie was the one 



H4 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

person in church who was of interest, who 
was somebody new, reputed eccentric, known 
to be young, and a laird, and still unseen by 
Christina. Small wonder that, as she stood 
there in her attitude of pretty decency, her 
mind should run upon him ! If he spared a 
glance in her direction, he should know she 
was a well-behaved young lady who had been 
to Glasgow. In reason he must admire her 
clothes, >nd it was possible that he should 
think her pretty. At that her heart beat the 
least thing in the world ; and she proceeded, 
by way of a corrective, to call up and dismiss 
a series of fancied pictures of the young man 
who should now, by rights, be looking at her. 
She settled on the plainest of them, a pink 
short young man with a dish face and no 
figure, at whose admiration she could afford 
to smile ; but for all that, the consciousness 
of his gaze (which was really fixed on Tor- 
ranee and his mittens) kept her in something 
of a flutter till the word Amen. Even then, 
she was far too well-bred to gratify her curi- 
osity with any impatience. She resumed her 
seat languidly this was a Glasgow touch 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK H5 

she composed her dress, rearranged her nose- 
gay of primroses, looked first in front, then 
behind upon the other side, and at last allowed 
her eyes to move, without hurry, in the 
direction of the Hermiston pew. For a 
moment, they were riveted. Next she had 
plucked her gaze home again like a tame bird 
who should have meditated flight. Possibili- 
ties crowded on her ; she hung over the future 
and grew dizzy ; the image of this young 
man, slim, graceful, dark, with the inscruta- 
ble half-smile, attracted and repelled her like 
a chasm. " I wonder, will I have met my 
fate ? " she thought, and her heart swelled. 

Torrance was got some way into his first 
exposition, positing a deep layer of texts as 
he went along, laying the foundations of his 
discourse, which was to deal with a nice 
point in divinity, before Archie suffered his 
eyes to wander. They fell first of all on 
Clem, looking insupportably prosperous and 
patronising Torrance with the favour of a 
modified attention, as of one who was used 
to better things in Glasgow. Though he 
had never before set eyes on him, Archie 



146 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

had no difficulty in identifying him, and no 
hesitation in pronouncing him vulgar, the 
worst of the family. Clem was leaning 
lazily forward when Archie first saw him. 
Presently he leaned nonchalantly back; and 
that deadly instrument, the maiden, was sud- 
denly unmasked in profile. Though not 
quite in the front of the fashion (had any- 
body cared !), certain artful Glasgow mantua- 
makers, and her own inherent taste, had ar- 
rayed her to great advantage. Her accoutre- 
ment was, indeed, a cause of heart-burning, 
and almost of scandal, in that infinitesimal 
kirk company. Mrs. Hob had said her say 
at Cauldstaneslap. " Daft-like ! " she had 
pronounced it. " A jaiket that '11 no meet ! 
Whaur 's the sense of a jaiket that '11 no but- 
ton upon you, if it should come to be weet? 
What do ye ca' thir things? Demmy bro- 
kens, d' ye say ? They '11 be brokens wi' a 
vengeance or ye can win back ! Weel, I 
have naething to do wi' it it 's no good 
taste." Clem, whose purse had thus meta- 
morphosed his sister, and who was not 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 147 

insensible to the advertisement, had come to 
the rescue with a " Hoot, woman ! What 
do you ken of good taste that has never been 
to the ceety ? " And Hob, looking on the 
girl with pleased smiles, as she timidly dis- 
played her finery in the midst of the dark 
kitchen, had thus ended the dispute: "The 
cutty looks weel," he had said, "and it's no 
very like rain. Wear them the day, hizzie; 
but it 's no a thing to make a practice o'." 
In the breasts of her rivals, coming to the 
kirk very conscious of white under-linen, 
and their faces splendid with much soap, the 
sight of the toilet had raised a storm of vary- 
ing emotion, from the mere unenvious ad- 
miration that was expressed in a long-drawn 
"Eh!" to the angrier feeling that found vent 
in an emphatic " Set her up ! " Her frock 
was of straw-coloured jaconet muslin, cut 
low at the bosom and short at the ankle, so 
as to display her demi-broquins of Regency 
violet, crossing with many straps upon a 
yellow cobweb stocking. According to the 
pretty fashion in which our grandmothers did 
not hesitate to appear, and our great-aunts 



148 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

went forth armed for the pursuit and capture 
of our great-uncles, the dress was drawn up 
so as to mould the contour of both breasts, 
and in the nook between a cairngorm brooch 
maintained it. Here, too, surely in a very 
enviable position, trembled the nosegay of 
primroses. She wore on her shoulders or 
rather, on her back and not her shoulders, 
which it scarcely passed a French coat of 
sarsenet, tied in front with Margate braces, 
and of the same colour with her violet shoes. 
About her face clustered a disorder of dark 
ringlets, a little garland of yellow French 
roses surmounted her brow, and the whole 
was crowned by a village hat of chipped 
straw. Amongst all the rosy and all the 
weathered faces that surrounded her in 
church, she glowed like an open flower 
girl and raiment, and the cairngorm that 
caught the daylight and returned it in a fiery 
flash, and the threads of bronze and gold 
that played in her hair. 

Archie was attracted by the bright thing 
like a child. He looked at her again and yet 
again, and their looks crossed. The lip was 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 149 

lifted from her little teeth. He saw the red 
blood work vividly under her tawny skin. 
Her eye, which was great as a stag's, struck 
and held his gaze. He knew who she must 
be Kirstie, she of the harsh diminutive, his 
housekeeper's niece, the sister of the rustic 
prophet, Gib and he found in her the an- 
swer to his wishes. 

Christina felt the shock of their encounter- 
ing glances, and seemed to rise, clothed in 
smiles, into a region of the vague and bright. 
But the gratification was not more exquisite 
than it was brief. She looked away abruptly, 
and immediately began to blame herself for 
that abruptness. She knew what she should 
have done, too late turned slowly with her 
nose in the air. And meantime his look was 
not removed, but continued to play upon her 
like a battery of cannon constantly aimed, 
and now seemed to isolate her alone with 
him, and now seemed to uplift her, as on a 
pillory, before the congregation. For Archie 
continued to drink her in with his eyes, even 
as a wayfarer comes to a well-head on a 
mountain, and stoops his face, and drinks 



150 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

with thirst unassuageable. In the cleft of her 
little breasts the fiery eye of the topaz and 
the pale florets of primrose fascinated him. 
He saw the breasts heave, and the flowers shake 
with the heaving, and marvelled what should 
so much discompose the girl. And Christina 
was conscious of his gaze saw it, perhaps, 
with the dainty plaything of an ear that 
peeped among her ringlets ; she was conscious 
of changing colour, conscious of her unsteady 
breath. Like a creature tracked, run down, 
surrounded, she sought in a dozen ways to 
give herself a countenance. She used her 
handkerchief it was a really fine one 
then she desisted in a panic : " He would 
only think I was too warm." She took to 
reading in the metrical psalms, and then re- 
membered it was sermon-time. Last she put 
a " sugar-bool " in her mouth, and the next 
moment repented of the step. It was such 
a homely-like thing ! Mr. Archie would never 
be eating sweeties in kirk ; and, with a pal- 
pable effort, she swallowed it whole, and her 
color flamed high. At this signal of distress 
Archie awoke to a sense of his ill-behaviour. 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 151 

What had he been doing ? He had been ex- 
quisitely rude in church to the niece of his 
housekeeper ; he had stared like a lackey and 
a libertine at a beautiful and modest girl. It 
was possible, it was even likely, he would 
be presented to her after service in the kirk- 
yard, and then how was he to look ? And 
there was no excuse. He had marked the 
tokens of her shame, of her increasing indig- 
nation, and he was such a fool that he had 
not understood them. Shame bowed him 
down, and he looked resolutely at Mr. 
Torrance ; who little supposed, good, worthy 
man, as he continued to expound justification 
by faith, what was his true business : to play 
the part of derivative to a pair of children at 
the old game of falling in love. 

Christina was greatly relieved at first. It 
seemed to her that she was clothed again. 
She looked back on what had passed. All 
would have been right if she had not blushed, 
a silly fool ! There was nothing to blush at, 
. if she bad taken a sugar-bool. Mrs. Mac- 
Taggart, the elder's wife in St. Enoch's, 
took them often. And if he had looked at 



I5 2 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

her, what was more natural than that a young 
gentleman should look at the best dressed 
girl in church ? And at the same time, she 
knew far otherwise, she knew there was 
nothing casual or ordinary in the look, and 
valued herself on its memory like a decora- 
tion. Well, it was a blessing he had found 
something else to look at ! And presently 
she began to have other thoughts. It was 
necessary, she fancied, that she should put 
herself right by a repetition of the incident, 
better managed. If the wish was father to 
the thought, she did not know or she would not 
recognise it. It was simply as a manoeuvre of 
propriety, as something called for to lessen 
the significance of what had gone before, 
that she should a second time meet his eyes, 
and this time without blushing. And at the 
memory of the blush, she blushed again, and 
.became one general blush burning from head 
to foot. Was ever anything so indelicate, 
so forward, done by a girl before ? And here 
she was, making an exhibition of herself be- 
fore the congregation about nothing ! She 
stole a glance upon her neighbours, and be- 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 153 

hold ! they were steadily indifferent, and 
Clem had gone to sleep. And still the one 
idea was becoming more and more potent 
with her, that in common prudence she must 
look again before the service ended. Some- 
thing of the same sort was going forward in 
the mind of Archie, as he struggled with the 
load of penitence. So it chanced that, in the 
flutter of the moment when the last psalm 
was given out, and Torrance was reading the 
verse, and the leaves of every psalm-book in 
church were rustling under busy fingers, two 
stealthy glances were sent out like antennae 
among the pews and on the indifferent and 
absorbed occupants, and drew timidly nearer 
to the straight line between Archie and 
Christina. They met, they lingered together 
for the least fraction of time, and that was 
enough. A charge as of electricity passed 
through Christina, and behold ! the leaf of her 
psalm-book was torn across. 

Archie was outside by the gate of the 
graveyard, conversing with Hob and the 
minister and shaking hands all round with the 
scattering congregation, when Clem and 



154 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Christina were brought up to be presented. 
The laird took off his hat and bowed to her 
with grace and respect. Christina made her 
Glasgow curtsey to the laird, and went on 
again up the road for Hermiston and Cauld- 
staneslap, walking fast, breathing hurriedly 
with a heightened colour, and in this strange 
frame of mind, that when she was alone she 
seemed in high happiness, and when anyone 
addressed her she resented it like a contradic- 
tion. A part of the way she had the com- 
pany of some neighbour girls and a loutish 
young man ; never had they seemed so in- 
sipid, never had she made herself so disagree- 
able. But these struck aside to their various 
destinations or were out-walked and left be- 
hind ; and when she had driven off with sharp 
words the proffered convoy of some of her 
nephews and nieces, she was free to go on 
alone up Hermiston brae, walking on air, 
dwelling intoxicated among clouds of happi- 
ness. Near to the summit she heard steps 
behind her, a man's steps, light and very 
rapid. She knew the foot at once and walked 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 155 

the faster. " If it's me he's wanting he can 
run for it," she thought, smiling. 

Archie overtook her like a man whose 
mind was made up. 

" Miss Kirstie " he began. 

" Miss Christina, if you please, Mr. Weir," 
she interrupted. " I canna bear the con- 
traction." 

" You forget it has a friendly sound for 
me. Your aunt is an old friend of mine and 
a very good one. I hope we shall see much 
of you at Hermiston ? " 

" My aunt and my sister-in-law doesna 
agree very well. Not that I have much ado 
with it. But still when I'm stopping in the 
house, if I was to be visiting my aunt, it 
would not look considerate-like." 

" I am sorry," said Archie. 

" I thank you kindly, Mr. Weir," she said. 
" I whiles think myself it's a great peety." 

" Ah, I am sure your voice would always 
be for peace ! " he cried. 

"I wouldna be too sure of that," she 
said. " I have my days like other folk, I 
suppose." 



I5 6 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

" Do you know, in our old kirk, among 
our good old grey dames, you made an effect 
like sunshine." 

" Ah, but that would be my Glasgow 
clothes ! " 

" I did not think I was so much under the 
influence of pretty frocks." 

She smiled with a half look at him. 
" There's more than you ! " she said. " But 
you see I'm only Cinderella. I'll have to 
put all these things by in my trunk ; next 
Sunday I'll be as grey as the rest. They're 
Glasgow clothes, you see, and it would never 
do to make a practice of it. It would seem 
terrible conspicuous." 

By that they were come to the place 
where their ways severed. The old grey 
moors were all about them ; in the midst a 
few sheep wandered ; and they could see on 
the one hand the straggling caravan scaling 
the braes in front of them for Cauldstaneslap, 
and on the other, the contingent from Her- 
miston bending off and beginning to disap- 
pear by detachments into the policy gate. It 
was in these circumstances that they turned 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 157 

to say farewell, and deliberately exchanged a 
glance as they shook hands. All passed as 
it should, genteelly ; and in Christina's mind, 
as she mounted the first steep ascent for 
Cauldstaneslap, a gratifying sense of triumph 
prevailed over the recollection of minor 
lapses and mistakes. She had kilted her 
gown, as she did usually at that rugged pass ; 
but when she spied Archie still standing and 
gazing after her, the skirts came down again 
as if by enchantment. Here was a piece of 
nicety for that upland parish, where the 
matrons marched with their coats kilted in 
the rain, and the lasses walked barefoot to 
kirk through the dust of summer, and went 
bravely down by the burnside, and sat on 
stones to make a public toilet before enter- 
ing ! It was perhaps an air wafted from 
Glasgow ; or perhaps it marked a stage of 
that dizziness of gratified vanity, in which 
the instinctive act passed unperceived. He 
was looking after ! She unloaded her bosom 
of a prodigious sigh that was all pleasure, 
and betook herself to run. When she had 



158 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

overtaken the stragglers of her family, she 
caught up the niece whom she had so re- 
cently repulsed, and kissed and slapped her, 
and drove her away again, and ran after her 
with pretty cries and laughter. Perhaps she 
thought the laird might still be looking ! 
But it chanced the little scene came under 
the view of eyes less favourable ; for she 
overtook Mrs. Hob marching with Clem and 
Dand. 

" You're shiirely fey, 1 lass ! " quoth 
Dandie. 

" Think shame to yersel', miss ! " said the 
strident Mrs. Hob. " Is this the gait to 
guide yersel' on the way hame frae kirk ? 
You're shiirely no sponsible the day ! And 
anyway I would mind my guid claes." 

" Hoot ! " said Christina, and went on be- 
fore them head in air, treading the rough 
track with the tread of a wild doe. 

She was in love with herself, her destiny, 
the air of the hills, the benediction of the 
sun. All the way home, she continued 

'Unlike yourself, strange, as persons are observed to be in 
the hour of approaching death or calamity. 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 159 

under the intoxication of these sky-scraping 
spirits. At table she could talk freely of 
young Hermiston; gave her opinion of him 
off-hand and with a loud voice, that he was a 
handsome young gentleman, real well man- 
nered and sensible-like, but it was a pity he 
looked doleful. Only the moment after 
a memory of his eyes in church embar- 
rassed her. But for this inconsiderable check, 
all through meal-time she had a good appe- 
tite, and she kept them laughing at table, 
until Gib (who had returned before them 
from Crossmichael and his separative worship) 
reproved the whole of them for their levity. 
Singing "in to herself" as she went, her 
mind still in the turmoil of glad confusion, 
she rose and tripped upstairs to a little loft, 
lighted by four panes in the gable, where she 
slept with one of her nieces. The niece, 
who followed her, presuming on "Auntie's" 
high spirits, was flounced out of the apart- 
ment with small ceremony, and retired, 
smarting and half-tearful, to bury her woes 
in the byre among the hay. Still humming, 
Christina divested herself of her finery, and 



160 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

put her treasures one by one in her great 
green trunk. The last of these was the 
psalm-book; it was a fine piece, the gift of 
Mistress Clem, in distinct old-faced type, on 
paper that had begun to grow foxy in the 
warehouse not by service and she was used 
to wrap it in a handkerchief every Sunday 
after its period of service was over, and bury 
it end-wise at the head of her trunk. As 
she now took it in hand the book fell open 
where the leaf was torn, and she stood and 
gazed upon that evidence of her bygone dis- 
composure. There returned again the vision 
of the two brown eyes staring at her, intent 
and bright, out of that dark corner of the 
kirk. The whole appearance and attitude, 
the smile, the suggested gesture of young 
Hermiston came before her in a flash at 
the sight of the torn page. "I was surely 
fey!" she said, echoing the words of Dandie, 
and at the suggested doom her high spirits 
deserted her. She flung herself prone upon 
the bed, and lay there, holding the psalm- 
book in her hands for hours, for the more 
part in a mere stupor of unconsenting pleas- 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 161 

ure and unreasoning fear. The fear was 
superstitious ; there came up again and again 
in her memory Dandie's ill-omened words, 
and a hundred grisly and black tales out of 
the immediate neighbourhood read her a 
commentary on their force. The pleasure 
was never realised. You might say the 
joints of her bo.dy thought and remembered, 
and were gladdened, but her essential self, in 
the immediate theatre of consciousness, talked 
feverishly of something else, like a nervous 
person at a fire. The image that she most 
complacently dwelt on was that of Miss 
Christina in her character of the Fair Lass of 
Cauldstaneslap, carrying all before her in the 
straw-coloured frock, the violet mantle, and 
the yellow cobweb stockings. Archie's im- 
age, on the other hand, when it presented 
itself was never welcomed far less wel- 
comed with any ardour, and it was exposed 
at times to merciless criticism. In the long, 
vague dialogues she held in her mind, often 
with imaginary, often with unrealised inter- 
locutors, Archie, if he were referred to at 
all, came in for savage handling. He was 



162 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

described as "looking like a stork," "staring 
like a caulf," "a face like a ghaist's." "Do 
you call that manners ? " she said ; or, " I 
soon put him in his place." "'Miss Chris- 
tina, if you please, Mr. Weir !' says I, and 
just flyped up my skirt tails." With gabble 
like this she would entertain herself long 
whiles together, and then her eye would per- 
haps fall on the torn leaf, and the eyes of 
Archie would appear again from the dark- 
ness of the wall, and the voluble words de- 
serted her, and she would lie still and stupid, 
and think upon nothing with devotion, and be 
sometimes raised by a quiet sigh. Had a 
doctor of medicine come into that loft, he 
would have diagnosed a healthy, well-devel- 
oped, eminently vivacious lass lying on her 
face in a fit of the sulks; not one who had 
just contracted, or was just contracting, a 
mortal sickness of the mind which should 
yet carry her towards death and despair. 
Had it been a doctor of psychology, he might 
have been pardoned for divining in the girl a 
passion of childish vanity, self-love in excelsis, 
and no more. It is to be understood that I 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 163 

have been painting chaos and describing the 
inarticulate. Every lineament that appears 
is too precise, almost every word used too 
strong. Take a finger-post in the mountains 
on a day of rolling mists ; I have but copied 
the names that appear upon the pointers, the 
names of definite and famous cities far dis- 
tant, and now perhaps basking in sunshine; 
but Christina remained all these hours, as it 
were, at the foot of the post itself, not mov- 
ing, and enveloped in mutable and blinding 
wreaths of haze. 

The day was growing late and the sun- 
beams long and level, when she sat suddenly 
up, and wrapped in its handkerchief and put 
by that psalm-book which had already played 
a part so decisive in the first chapter of her 
love-story. In the absence of the mesmer- 
ist's eye, we are told nowadays that the head 
of a bright nail may fill his place, if it be 
steadfastly regarded. So that torn page had 
riveted her attention on what might else have 
been but little, and perhaps soon forgotten ; 
while the ominous words of Dandie heard, 
not heeded, and still remembered had lent 



164 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

to her thoughts, or rather to her mood, a cast 
of solemnity, and that idea of Fate a pagan 
Fate, uncontrolled by any Christian deity, 
obscure, lawless, and august moving in- 
dissuadably in the affairs of Christian men. 
Thus even that phenomenon of love at first 
sight, which is so rare and seems so simple 
and violent, like a disruption of life's tissue, 
may be decomposed into a sequence of acci- 
dents happily concurring. 

She put on a grey frock and a pink ker- 
chief, looked at herself a moment with ap- 
proval in the small square of glass that served 
her for a toilet mirror, and went softly down- 
stairs through the sleeping house that re- 
sounded with the sound of afternoon snoring. 
Just outside the door Dandie was sitting with 
a book in his hand, not reading, only honour- 
ing the Sabbath by a sacred vacancy of mind. 
She came near him and stood still. 

" I'm for off up the muirs, Dandie," she said. 

There was something unusually soft in 
her tones that made him look up. She was 
pale, her eyes dark and bright ; no trace re- 
mained of the levity of the morning. 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 165 

" Ay, lass ? Ye'll have ye're ups and 
downs like me, I'm thinkin'," he observed. 

" What for do ye say that ?" she asked. 

" O, for naething," says Dand. " Only I 
think ye're mair like me than the lave of 
them. Ye've mair of the poetic temper, 
tho' Guid kens little enough of the poetic 
taalent. It's an ill gift at the best. Look 
at yoursel'. At denner you were all sun- 
shine and flowers and laughter, and now 
you're like the star of evening on a lake." 

She drank in this hackneyed compliment 
like wine, and it glowed in her veins. 

" But I'm saying, Dand " she came 
nearer him " I'm for the muirs. I must 
have a braith of air. If Clem was to be 
speiring for me, try and quaiet him, will ye 
no ? " 

" What way ? " said Dandie. " I ken 
but the ae way, and that's leein'. I'll say ye 
had a sair heed, if ye like." 

" But I havena," she objected. 

" I daur say not," he returned. " I said 
I would say ye had ; and if ye like to nay-say 



166 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

me when ye come back, it'll no mateerially 
maitter, for my chara'ter's clean gane a'ready 
past reca'." 

" O, Dand. are ye a leear ? " she asked, 
lingering. 

"Folks say sae," replied the bard. 

" Wha says sae ? " she pursued. 

" Them that should ken the best," he re- 
sponded. " The lassies, for ane." 

" But, Dand, you would never lee to me?" 
she asked. 

" I'll leave that for your pairt of it, ye 
girzie," said he. " Ye'll lee to me fast 
eneuch, when ye hae gotten a jo. I'm tellin' 
ye and it's true ; when you have a jo, Miss 
Kirstie, it'll be for guid and ill. I ken : I 
was made that way myseP, but the deil was 
in my luck ! Here, gang awa wi' ye to your 
muirs, and let me be ; I'm in an hour of in- 
spiraution, ye upsetting tawpie !" 

But she clung to her brother's neighbour- 
hood, she knew not why. 

" Will ye no gie's a kiss, Dand ? " she 
said. " I aye likit ye fine." 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 167 

He kissed her and considered her a moment; 
he found something strange in her. But he 
was a libertine through and through, nour- 
ished equal contempt and suspicion of all 
womankind, and paid his way among them 
habitually with idle compliments. 

" Gae wa' wi' ye ! " said he. " Ye're a 
dentie baby, and be content wi' that ! " 

That was Dandie's way ; a kiss and a com- 
fit to Jenny a bawbee and my blessing to 
Jill and good night to the whole clan of ye, 
my dears ! When anything approached the 
serious, it became a matter for men, he both 
thought and said. Women, when they did 
not absorb, were only children to be shoo'd 
away. Merely in his character of connois- 
seur, however, Dandie glanced carelessly after 
his sister as she crossed the meadow. "The 
brat's no that bad ! " he thought with sur- 
prise, for though he had just been paying her 
compliments, he had not really looked at her. 
" Hey ! what's yon ? " For the grey dress 
was cut with short sleeves and skirts, and 
displayed her trim strong legs clad in pink 
stockings of the same shade as the kerchief 



i68 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

she wore round her shoulders, and that shim- 
mered as she went. This was not her way in 
undress ; he knew her ways and the ways of 
the whole sex in the country-side, no one 
better ; when they did not go barefoot, they 
wore stout " rig and furrow " woollen hose 
of an invisible blue mostly, when they were 
not black outright ; and Dandie, at sight of 
this daintiness, put two and two together. It 
was a silk handkerchief, then they would be 
silken hose ; they matched then the whole 
outfit was a present of Clem's, a costly pre- 
sent, and not something to be worn through 
bog and briar, or on a late afternoon of Sun- 
day. He whistled. "My denty May, either 
your heid's fair turned, or there's some on- 
goings !" he observed, and dismissed the sub- 
ject. 

She went slowly at first, but ever straighter 
and faster for the Cauldstaneslap, a pass 
among the hills to which the farm owed its 
name. The Slap opened like a doorway be- 
tween two rounded hillocks ; and through 
this ran the short cut to Hermiston. Im- 
mediately on the other side it went down 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 169 

through the Deil's Hags, a considerable 
marshy hollow of the hill-tops, full of springs, 
and crouching junipers, and pools where the 
black peat-water slumbered. There was no 
view from here. A man might have sat upon 
the Praying Weaver's stone a half-century, 
and seen none but the Cauldstaneslap children 
twice in the twenty-four hours on their way 
to the school and back again, an occasional 
shepherd, the irruption of a clan of sheep, 
or the birds who haunted about the springs, 
drinking and shrilly piping. So, when she 
had once passed the Slap, Kirstie was received 
into seclusion. She looked back a last time 
at the farm. It still lay deserted except for 
the figure of Dandie, who was now seen to 
be scribbling in his lap, the hour of expected 
inspiration having come to him at last. Thence 
she passed rapidly through the morass, and 
came to the further end of it, where a slug- 
gish burn discharges, and the path for Her- 
miston accompanies it on the beginning of its 
downward path. From this corner a wide 
view was opened to her of the whole stretch 
of braes upon the other side, still sallow and 



17 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

in places rusty with the winter, with the path 
marked boldly, here and there by the burn- 
side a tuft of birches, and three miles off 
as the crow flies from its enclosures and 
young plantations, the windows of Hermiston 
glittering in the western sun. 

Here she sat down and waited, and looked 
for a long time at these far-away bright panes 
of glass. It amused her to have so extended 
a view, she thought. It amused her to see 
the house of Hermiston to see "folk"; 
and there was an indistinguishable human 
unit, perhaps the gardener, visibly sauntering 
on the gravel paths. 

By the time the sun was down and all the 
easterly braes lay plunged in clear shadow, 
she was aware of another figure coming up 
the path at a most unequal rate of approach, 
now half-running, now pausing and seeming 
to hesitate. She watched him at first with 
a total suspension of thought. She held her 
thought as a person holds his breathing. 
Then she consented to recognize him. 
" He'll no be coming here, he canna be ; it's 
no possible." And there began to grow 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 171 

upon her a subdued choking suspense. He 
was coming ; his hesitations had quite ceased, 
his step grew firm and swift ; no doubt re- 
mained ; and the question loomed up before 
her instant : what was she to do ? It was all 
very well to say that her brother was a laird 
himself; it was all very well to speak of 
casual intermarriages and to count cousinship, 
like Auntie Kirstie. The difference in their 
social station was trenchant ; propriety, pru- 
dence, all that she had ever learned, all that 
she knew, bade her flee. But on the other 
hand the cup of life now offered to her was 
too enchanting. For one moment, she saw 
the question clearly, and definitely made her 
choice. She stood up and showed herself an 
instant in the gap relieved upon the sky line ; 
and the next, fled trembling and sat down 
glowing with excitement on the Weaver's 
stone. She shut her eyes, seeking, praying 
for composure. Her hand shook in her lap, 
and her mind was full of incongruous and 
futile speeches. What was there to make a 
work about ? She could take care of herself, 
she supposed ! There was no harm in see- 



I7 2 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

ing the laird. It was the best thing that 
could happen. She would mark a proper 
distance to him once and for all. Gradually 
the wheels of her nature ceased to go round 
so madly, and she sat in passive expectation, 
a quiet, solitary figure in the midst of the grey 
moss. I have said she was no hypocrite, but 
here I am at fault. She never admitted to 
herself that she had come up the hill to look 
for Archie. And perhaps after all she did 
not know, perhaps came as a stone falls. For 
the steps of love in the young, and especially 
in girls, are instinctive and unconscious. 

In the meantime Archie was drawing 
rapidly near, and he at least was consciously 
seeking her neighbourhood. The afternoon 
had turned to ashes in his mouth ; the 
memory of the girl had kept him from read- 
ing and drawn him as with cords ; and at 
last, as the cool of the evening began to 
come on, he had taken his hat and set forth, 
with a smothered ejaculation, by the moor 
path to Cauldstaneslap. He had no hope to 
find her ; he took the off chance without ex- 
pectation of result and to relieve his uneasi- 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 173 

ness. The greater was his surprise, as he 
surmounted the slope and came into the 
hollow of the Deil's Hags, to see there, like 
an answer to his wishes, the little womanly 
figure in the grey dress and the pink kerchief 
sitting little, and low, and lost, and acutely 
solitary, in these desolate surroundings and 
on the weather-beaten stone of the dead 
weaver. Those things that still smacked of 
winter were all rusty about her, and those 
things that already relished of the spring had 
put forth the tender and lively colours of the 
season. Even in the unchanging face of the 
death-stone changes were to be remarked ; 
and in the channeled-lettering, the moss be- 
gan to renew itself in jewels of green. By 
an after-thought that was a stroke of art, she 
had turned up over her head the back of the 
kerchief; so that it now framed becomingly 
her vivacious and yet pensive face. Her 
feet were gathered under her on the one side, 
and she leaned on her bare arm, which 
showed out strong and round, tapered to a 
slim wrist, and shimmered in the fading 
light. 



174 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Young Hermiston was struck with a cer- 
tain chill. He was reminded that he now 
dealt in serious matters of life and death. 
This was a grown woman he was approach- 
ing, endowed with her mysterious potencies 
and attractions, the treasury of the continued 
race, and he was neither better nor worse 
than the average of his sex and age. He had 
a certain delicacy which had preserved him 
hitherto unspotted, and which (had either of 
them guessed it) made him a more dangerous 
companion when his heart should be really 
stirred. His throat was dry as he came 
near ; but the appealing sweetness of her 
smile stood between them like a guardian 
angel. 

For she turned to him and smiled, though 
without rising. There was a shade in this 
cavalier greeting that neither of them per- 
ceived ; neither he, who simply thought it 
gracious and charming as herself; nor yet 
she, who did not observe (quick as she was) 
the difference between rising to meet the 
laird and remaining seated to receive the ex- 
pected admirer. 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 175 

" Are ye stepping west, Hermiston ?" said 
she, giving him his territorial name after the 
fashion of the country-side. 

" I was," said he a little hoarsely, " but I 
think I will be about the end of my stroll 
now. Are you like me, Miss Christina ? the 
house would not hold me. I came here 
seeking air." 

He took his seat at the other end of the 
tombstone and studied her, wondering what 
was she. There was infinite import in the 
question alike for her and him. 

" Ay," she said. " I couldna bear the 
roof either. It 's a habit of mine to come 
up here about the gloaming when it's quaiet 
and caller." 

" It was a habit of my mother's also," he 
said gravely. The recollection half-startled 
him as he expressed it. He looked around. 
" I have scarce been here since. It's peace- 
ful," he said, with a long breath. 

" It's no like Glasgow," she replied. " A 
weary place, yon Glasgow ! But what a day 
have I had for my hame-coming, and what a 
bonny evening ! " 



I7 6 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

" Indeed, it was a wonderful day," said 
Archie. " I think I will remember it years 
and years until I come to die. On days like 
this I do not know if you feel as I do 
but everything appears so brief, and fragile, 
and exquisite, that I am afraid to touch life. 
We are here for so short a time ; and all the 
old people before us Rutherfords of Herm- 
iston, Elliotts of the Cauldstaneslap that 
were here but a while since, riding about and 
keeping up a great noise in this quiet corner 
making love too, and marrying why, 
where are they now ? It's deadly common- 
place, but after all, the commonplaces are the 
great poetic truths." 

He was sounding her, semi-consciously, 
to see if she could understand him ; to learn 
if she were only an animal the colour of 
flowers, or had a soul in her to keep her 
sweet. She, on her part, her means well in 
hand, watched, womanlike, for any oppor- 
tunity to shine, to abound in his humour, 
whatever that might be. The dramatic 
artist, that lies dormant or only half-awake in 
most human beings, had in her sprung to his 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 177 

feet in a divine fury, and chance had served 
her well. She looked upon him with a sub- 
dued twilight look that became the hour of 
the day and the train of thought ; earnestness 
shone through her like stars in the purple 
west; and from the great but controlled up- 
heaval of her whole nature there passed into 
her voice, and rang in her lightest words, a 
thrill of emotion. 

" Have you mind of Dand's song ? " she 
answered. " I think he'll have been trying 
to say what you have been thinking." 

" No, I never heard it," he said. " Repeat 
it to me, can you ? " 

" It's nothing wanting the tune," said 
Kirstie. 

" Then sing it me," said he. 

" On the Lord's Day ? That would never 
do, Mr. Weir ! " 

u I am afraid I am not so strict a keeper 
of the Sabbath, and there is ho one in this 
place to hear us, unless the poor old ancient 
under the stone." 

" No that I'm thinking that really," she 
said. " By my way of thinking, it's just as 



178 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

serious as a psalm. Will I sooth it to ye, 
then ? " 

" If you please," said he, and, drawing 
near to her on the tombstone, prepared to 
listen. 

She sat up as if to sing. " I'll only can 
sooth it to ye," she explained. " I wouldna 
like to sing out loud on the Sabbath. I think 
the birds would carry news of it to Gilbert," 
and she smiled. " It's about the Elliotts," 
she continued, " and I think there's few bon- 
nier bits in the book-poets, though Dand has 
never got printed yet." 

And she began, in the low, clear tones of 
her half-voice, now sinking almost to a 
whisper, now rising to a particular note which 
was her best, and which Archie learned to 
wait for with growing emotion : 

" O they rade in the rain, in the days that are gane, 

In the rain and the wind and the lave, 
They shoutit in the ha' and they routit on the hill, 

But they' re a' quaitit noo in the grave. 

Auld, auld Elliotts, clay-cauld Elliotts, dour, bauld Elliotts of 
auld !" 

All the time she sang she looked stead- 
fastly before her, her knees straight, her hands 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK i?9 

upon her knee, her head cast back and up. 
The expression was admirable throughout, 
for had she not learned it from the lips and 
under the criticism of the author ? When 
it was done, she turned upon Archie a face 
softly bright, and eyes gently suffused and 
shining in the twilight, and his heart rose and 
went out to her with boundless pity and sym- 
pathy. His question was answered. She 
was a human being tuned to a sense of the 
tragedy of life ; there were pathos and music 
and a great heart in the girl. 

He arose instinctively, she also; for she 
saw she had gained a point, and scored the 
impression deeper, and she had wit enough 
left to flee upon a victory. They were but 
commonplaces that remained to be exchanged, 
but the low, moved voices in which they 
passed made them sacred in the memory. In 
the falling greyness of the evening he 
watched her figure winding through the 
morass, saw it turn a last time and wave a 
hand, and then pass through the Slap; and it 
seemed to him as if something went along 
with her out of the deepest of his heart. 



l8o WEIR OF HERMISTON 

And something surely had come, and come 
to dwell there. He had retained from child- 
hood a picture, now half-obliterated by the 
passage of time and the multitude of fresh 
impressions, of his mother telling him, with 
the fluttered earnestness of her voice, and 
often with dropping tears, the tale of the 
"Praying Weaver," on the very scene of his 
brief tragedy and long repose. And now 
there was a companion piece; and he beheld, 
and he should behold forever, Christina 
perched on the same tomb, in the grey col- 
ours of the evening, gracious, dainty, perfect 
as a flower, and she also singing 

" Of old, unhappy far-off things, 
And battles long ago," 

of their common ancestors now dead, of 
their rude wars composed, their weapons 
buried with them, and of these strange 
changelings, their descendants, who lingered 
a little in their places, and would soon be 
gone also, and perhaps sung of by others at 
the gloaming hour. . By one of the uncon- 
scious arts of tenderness the two women 
were enshrined together in his memory. 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 181 

Tears, in that hour of sensibility, came into 
his eyes indifferently at the thought of either, 
and the girl, from being something merely 
bright and shapely, was caught up into the 
zone of things serious as life and death and 
his dead mother. So that in all ways and on 
either side, Fate played his game artfully 
with this poor pair of children. The gen- 
erations were prepared, the pangs were made 
ready, before the curtain rose on the dark 
drama. 

In the same moment of time that she dis- 
appeared from Archie, there opened before 
Kirstie's eyes the cup-like hollow in which 
the farm lay. She saw, some five hundred 
feet below her, the house making itself bright 
with candles, and this was a broad hint to her 
to hurry. For they were only kindled on a 
Sabbath night with a view to that family 
worship which rounded in the incomparable 
tedium of the day and brought on the relaxa- 
tion of supper. Already she knew that 
Robert must be within-sides at the head of 
the table, " waling the portions ;" for it was 



182 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Robert in his quality of family priest and 
judge, not the gifted Gilbert, who officiated. 
She made good time accordingly down the 
steep ascent, and came up to the door panting 
as the three younger brothers, all roused at 
last from slumber, stood together in the cool 
and the dark of the evening with a fry of 
nephews and nieces about them, chatting and 
awaiting the expected signal. She stood 
back ; she had no mind to direct attention to 
her late arrival or to her labouring breath. 

" Kirstie, ye have shaved it this time, my 
lass," said Clem. " Whaur were ye ? " 

" O, just taking a dander by myseP," said 
Kirstie. 

And the talk continued on the subject of 
the American war, without further reference 
to the truant who stood by them in the covert 
of the dusk, thrilling with happiness and the 
sense of guilt. 

The signal was given, and the brothers 
began to go in one after another, amid the 
jostle and throng of Hob's children. 

Only Dandie, waiting till the last, caught 
Kirstie by the arm. " When did ye begin 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 183 

to dander in pink hosen, Mistress Elliott ? " 
he whispered slyly. 

She looked down ; she was one blush. " I 
maun have forgotten to change them," said 
she j and went into prayers in her turn with 
a troubled mind, between anxiety as to 
whether Dand should have observed her yel- 
low stockings at church, and should thus 
detect her in a palpable falsehood, and shame 
that she had already made good his prophecy. 

She remembered the words of it, how it 
was to be when she had gotten a jo, and that 
that would be for good and evil. " Will I 
have gotten my jo now ? " she thought with 
a secret rapture. 

And all through prayers, where it was her 
principal business to conceal the pink stock- 
ings from the eyes of the indifferent Mrs. 
Hob and all through supper, as she made 
a feint of eating and sat at the table radiant 
and constrained and again when she had 
left them and come into her chamber, and 
was alone with her sleeping niece, and could 
at last lay aside the armour of society the 
same words sounded within her, the same 



184 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

profound note of happiness, of a world all 
changed and renewed, of a day that had been 
passed in Paradise, and of a night that was to 
be heaven opened. All night she seemed to 
be conveyed smoothly upon a shallow stream 
of sleep and waking, and through the bowers 
of Beulah ; all night she cherished to her 
heart that exquisite hope ; and if, towards 
morning, she forgot it awhile in a more pro- 
found unconsciousness, it was to catch again 
the rainbow thought with her first moment 
of awaking. 



Chapter VII 

ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

Two days later a gig from Crossmichael 
deposited Frank Innes at the doors of Herm- 
iston. Once in a way, during the past 
winter, Archie, in some acute phase of bore- 
dom, had written him a letter. It had con- 
tained something in the nature of an invita- 
tion, or a reference to an invitation pre- 
cisely what, neither of them now remembered. 
When Innes had received it, there had been 
nothing further from his mind than to bury 
himself in the moors with Archie ; but not 
even the most acute political heads are guided 
through the steps of life with unerring direct- 
ness. That would require a gift of prophecy 
which has been denied to man. For instance, 
who could have imagined that, not a month 
after he had received the letter, and turned it 
into mockery, and put off answering it, and 
in the end lost it, misfortunes of a gloomy 
185 



186 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

cast should begin to thicken over Frank's 
career ? His case may be briefly stated. His 
father, a small Morayshire laird with a large 
family, became recalcitrant and cut off the 
supplies ; he had fitted himself out with the 
beginnings of quite a good law library, which, 
upon some sudden losses on the turf, he had 
been obliged to sell before they were paid 
for ; and his bookseller, hearing some rumour 
of the event, took out a warrant for his 
arrest. Innes had early word of it, and was 
able to take precautions. In this immediate 
welter of his affairs, with an unpleasant charge 
hanging over him, he had judged it the part 
of prudence to be off instantly, had written a 
fervid letter to his father at Inverauld, and 
put himself in the coach for Crossmichael. 
Any port in a storm ! He was manfully 
turning his back on the Parliament House 
and its gay babble, on porter and oysters, the 
racecourse and the ring ; and manfully pre- 
pared, until these clouds should have blown 
by, to share a living grave with Archie Weir 
at Hermiston. 

To do him justice, he was no less sur- 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 187 

prised to be going than Archie was to see 
him come ; and he carried off his wonder with 
an infinitely better grace. 

" Well, here I am !" said he, as he alighted. 
" Pylades has come to Orestes at last. By 
the way, did you get my answer ? No ? 
How very provoking ! Well, here I am to 
answer for myself, and that's better still." 

" I am very glad to see you, of course," 
said Archie, " I make you heartily welcome, 
of course. But you surely have not come 
to stay, with the courts still sitting ; is that 
not most unwise?" 

" Damn the courts ! " says Frank. " What 
are the courts to friendship and a little fish- 
ing?" 

And so it was agreed that he was to stay, 
with no term to the visit but the term which 
he had privily set to it himself the day, 
namely, when his father should have come 
down with the dust, and he should be able to 
pacify the bookseller. On such vague con- 
ditions there began for these two young men 
(who were not even friends) a life of great 
familiarity and, as the days grew on, less and 



l88 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

less intimacy. They were together at meal 
times, together o' nights when the hour had 
come for whisky toddy ; but it might have 
been noticed (had there been anyone to pay 
heed) that they were rarely so much together 
by day. Archie had Hermiston to attend to, 
multifarious activities in the hills, in which he 
did not require, and had even refused, Frank's 
escort. He would be off sometimes in the 
morning and leave only a note on the break- 
fast table to announce the fact ; and some- 
times, with no notice at all, he would not re- 
turn for dinner until the hour was long past. 
Innes groaned under these desertions ; it re- 
quired all his philosophy to sit down to a 
solitary breakfast with composure, and all his 
unaffected good-nature to be able to greet 
Archie with friendliness on the more rare 
occasions when he came home late for 
dinner. 

11 1 wonder what on earth he finds to do, 
Mrs. Elliott ? " said he one morning, after he 
had just read the hasty billet and sat down to 
table. 

" I suppose it will be business, sir," re- 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 189 

plied the housekeeper dryly, measuring his 
distance off to him by an indicated curtsey. 

" But I can't imagine what business ! " he 
reiterated. 

" I suppose it will be his business," re- 
torted the austere Kirstie. 

He turned to her with that happy bright- 
ness that made the charm of his disposition, 
and broke into a peal of healthy and natural 
laughter. 

" Well played, Mrs. Elliott ! " he cried, 
and the housekeeper's face relaxed into the 
shadow of an iron smile. " Well played in- 
deed ! " said he. " But you must not be 
making a stranger of me like that. Why, 
Archie and I were at the High School 
together, and we've been to college to- 
gether, and we were going to the Bar 
together, when you know ! Dear, dear 
me ! what a pity that was ! A life spoiled, 
a fine young fellow as good as buried here in 
the wilderness with rustics ; and all for what ? 
"A frolic, silly, if you like, but no more. 
God, how good your scones are, Mrs. 
Elliott." 



190 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

" They're no mines, it was the lassie made 
them," said Kirstie ; " and, saving your pres- 
ence, there's little sense in taking the Lord's 
name in vain about idle vivers that you fill 
your kyte wi'." 

" I daresay you're perfectly right, ma'am," 
quoth the imperturbable Frank. " But, as I 
was saying, this is a pitiable business, this 
about poor Archie; and you and I might do 
worse than put our heads together, like a 
couple of sensible people, and bring it to an 
end. Let me tell you, ma'am, that Archie is 
really quite a promising young man, and in 
my opinion he would do well at the Bar. 
As for his father, no one can deny his 
ability, and I don't fancy any one would 
care to deny that he has the deil's own 
temper " 

"If you'll excuse me, Mr. Innes, I think 
the lass is crying on me," said Kirstie, and 
flounced from the'room. 

"The damned, cross-grained, old broom- 
stick ! " ejaculated Innes. 

In the meantime, Kirstie had escaped into 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 191 

the kitchen, and before her vassal gave vent 
to her feelings. 

" Here, ettercap ! Ye '11 have to wait 
on yon Innes ! I canna haud myself in. 
1 Puir Erchie ' ! I'd l puir Erchie ' him, if 
I had my way ! And Hermiston with 
the deil's ain temper ! God, let him take 
Hermiston's scones out of his mouth first. 
There's no a hair on ayther o' the Weirs 
that hasna mair spunk and dirdum to it 
than what he has in his hale dwaibly body ! 
Settin' up his snash to me ! Let him 
gang to the black toon where he 's mebbe 
wantit birling in a curricle wi' pima- 
tum on his heid making a mess o' him- 
sel' wi' nesty hizzies a fair disgrace!" 
It was impossible to hear without admira- 
tion Kirstie's graduated disgust, as she 
brought forth, one after another, these some- 
what baseless charges. Then she remem- 
bered her immediate purpose, and turned 
again on her fascinated auditor. " Do ye 
no hear me, tawpie ? Do ye no hear 
what I 'm tellin' ye ? Will I have to shoo 
ye in to him ? If I come to attend to ye, 



i 9 z WEIR OF HERMISTON 

mistress ! " And the maid fled the kitchen, 
which had become practically dangerous, 
to attend on Innes' wants in the front 
parlour. 

Tantaene irae? Has the reader perceived 
the reason ? Since Frank's coming there 
were no more hours of gossip over the 
supper tray ! All his blandishments were 
in vain ; he had started handicapped on the 
race for Mrs. Elliott's favour. 

But it was a strange thing how mis- 
fortune dogged him in his efforts to be 
genial. I must guard the reader against 
accepting Kirstie's epithets as evidence ; 
she was more concerned for their vigour 
than for their accuracy. Dwaibly, for in- 
stance; nothing could be more calumni- 
ous. Frank was the very picture of good 
looks, good humour, and manly youth. 
He had bright eyes with a sparkle and 
a dance to them, curly hair, a charming 
smile, brilliant teeth, an admirable car- 
riage of the head, the look of a gentleman, 
the address of one accustomed to please at 
first sight and to improve the impression. 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 193 

And with all these advantages, he failed with 
everyone about Hermiston ; with the silent 
shepherd, with the obsequious grieve, with 
the groom who was also the ploughman, with 
the gardener and the gardener's sister a 
pious, down-hearted woman with a shawl 
over her ears he failed equally and flatly. 
They did not like him, and they showed it. 
The little maid, indeed, was an exception ; 
she admired him devoutly, probably dreamed 
of him in her private hours ; but she was ac- 
customed to play the part of silent auditor to 
Kirstie's tirades and silent recipient of Kir- 
stie's buffets, and she had learned not only to 
be a very capable girl of her years, but a 
very secret and prudent one besides. Frank 
was thus conscious that he had one ally and 
sympathiser in the midst of that general union 
of disfavour that surrounded, watched, and 
waited on him in the house of Hermiston ; 
but he had little comfort or society from that 
alliance, and the demure little maid (twelve 
on her last birthday) preserved her own coun- 
sel, and tripped on his service, brisk, dumbly 
responsive, but inexorably unconversational. 



194 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

For the others, they were beyond hope and 
beyond endurance. Never had a young 
Apollo been cast among such rustic barba- 
rians. But perhaps the cause of his ill-success 
lay in one trait which was habitual and un- 
conscious with him, yet diagnostic of the 
man. It was his practice to approach any 
one person at the expense of someone else. 
He offered you an alliance against the some- 
one else; he flattered you by slighting him; you 
were drawn into a small intrigue against him 
before you knew how. Wonderful are the 
virtues of this process generally ; but Frank's 
mistake was in the choice of the someone 
else. He was not politic in that; he listened 
to the voice of irritation. Archie had offend- 
ed him at first by what he had felt to be 
rather a dry reception ; had offended him 
since by his frequent absences. He was 
besides the one figure continually present 
in Frank's eye ; and it was to his immediate 
dependents that Frank could offer the snare 
of his sympathy. Now the truth is that the 
Weirs, father and son, were surrounded by a 
posse of strenuous loyalists. Of my lord 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 195 

they were vastly proud. It was a distinction 
in itself to be one of the vassals of the 
" Hanging Judge," and his gross, formidable 
joviality was far from unpopular in the neigh- 
bourhood of his home. For Archie they 
had, one and all, a sensitive affection and re- 
spect which recoiled from a word of belittle- 
ment. 

Nor was Frank more successful when he 
went farther afield. To the Four Black 
Brothers, for instance, he was antipathetic in 
the highest degree. Hob thought him too 
light, Gib too profane. Clem, who saw 
him but for a day or two before he went to 
Glasgow, wanted to know what the fule's 
business was, and whether he meant to stay 
here all session time ! " Yon 's a drone,-" he 
pronounced. As for Dand, it will be enough 
to describe their first meeting, when Frank 
had been whipping a river and the rustic 
celebrity chanced to come along the path. 

" I 'm told you are quite a poet," Frank 
had said. 

"Wha tell 't ye that, mannie? " had been 
the unconciliating answer. 



I9 6 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

" O, everybody " says Frank. 

" God ! Here 's fame ! " said the sardonic 
poet, and he had passed on his way. 

Come to think of it, we have here perhaps 
a truer explanation of Frank's failures. Had 
he met Mr. Sheriff Scott he could have 
turned a neater compliment, because Mr. 
Scott would have been a friend worth mak- 
ing. Dand, on the other hand, he did not 
value sixpence, and he showed it even while 
he tried to flatter. Condescension is an ex- 
cellent thing, but it is strange how one-sided 
the pleasure of it is ! He who goes fishing 
among the Scots peasantry with condescen- 
sion for a bait will have an empty basket by 
evening. 

In proof of this theory Frank made a 
great success of it at the Crossmichael Club, 
to which Archie took him immediately on his 
arrival ; his own last appearance on that 
scene of gaiety. Frank was made welcome 
there at once, continued to go regularly, and 
had attended a meeting (as the members ever 
after loved to tell) on the evening before his 
death. Young Hay and young Pringle ap- 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 197 

peared again. There was another supper at 
Windielaws, another dinner at Driffel ; and 
it resulted in Frank being taken to the bosom 
of the county people as unreservedly as he 
had been repudiated by the country folk. He 
occupied Hermiston after the manner of an 
invader in a conquered capital. He was per- 
petually issuing from it, as from a base, to 
toddy parties, fishing parties, and dinner par- 
ties, to which Archie was not invited, or to 
which Archie would not go. It was now 
that the name of The Recluse became gen- 
eral for the young man. Some say that 
Innes invented it ; Innes, at least, spread it 
abroad. 

" How 's all with your Recluse to-day ? " 
people would ask. 

"O, reclusing away!" Innes would de- 
clare, with his bright air of saying something 
witty ; and immediately interrupt the general 
laughter which he had provoked much more 
by his air than his words, "Mind you, it's 
^all very well laughing, but I 'm not very 
well pleased. Poor Archie is a good fellow, 
an excellent fellow, a fellow I always liked. 



19^ WEIR OF HERMISTON 

I think it small of him to take his little dis- 
grace so hard and shut himself up. ' Grant 
that it is a ridiculous story, painfully ridicu- 
lous,' I keep telling him. ' Be a man ! 
Live it down, man ! ' But not he. Of 
course it 's just solitude, and shame, and all 
that. But I confess I 'm beginning to fear 
the result. It would be all the pities in the 
world if a really promising fellow like Weir 
was to end ill. I'm seriously tempted to 
write to Lord Hermiston, and put it plainly 
to him." 

" I would if I were you," some of his 
auditors would say, shaking the head, sitting 
bewildered and confused at this new view of 
the matter, so deftly indicated by a single 
word. " A capital idea ? " they would add, 
and wonder at the aplomb and position of this 
young man, who talked as a matter of course 
of writing to Hermiston and correcting him 
upon his private affairs. 

And Frank would proceed, sweetly confi- 
dential : " I'll give you an idea, now. He's 
actually sore about the way that I'm received 
and he's left out in the county actually 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 199 

jealous and sore. I've rallied him and I've 
reasoned with him, told him that everyone 
was most kindly inclined towards him, told 
him even that I was received merely because I 
was his guest. But it's no use. He will 
neither accept the invitations he gets, nor 
stop brooding about the ones where he's left 
out. What I'm afraid of is that the wound's 
ulcerating. He had always one of those 
dark, secret, angry natures a little under- 
hand and plenty of bile you know the sort. 
He must have inherited it from the Weirs, 
whom I suspect to have been a worthy 
family of weavers somewhere; what's the 
cant phrase ? sedentary occupation. It's 
precisely the kind of character to go wrong 
in a false position like what his father's made 
for him, or he's making for himself, which- 
ever you like to call it. And for my part, I 
think it a disgrace," Frank would say gener- 
ously. 

Presently the sorrow and anxiety of this 
disinterested friend took shape. He began 
in private, in conversations of two, to talk 
vaguely of bad habits and low habits. " I 



200 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

must say I'm afraid he's going wrong alto- 
gether," he would say. " I'll tell you plainly, 
and between ourselves, I scarcely like to stay 
there any longer; only, man, I'm positively 
afraid to leave him alone. You'll see, I shall 
be blamed for it later on. I'm staying at a 
great sacrifice. I'm hindering my chances 
at the Bar, and I can't blind my eyes to it. 
And what I'm afraid of is that I'm going to 
get kicked for it all round before all's done. 
You see, nobody believes in friendship now- 
adays." 

" Well, Innes," his interlocutor would 
reply, " it's very good of you, I must say 
that. If there's any blame going you'll al- 
ways be sure of my good word, for one thing." 

"Well," Frank would continue, " candidly, 
I don't say it's pleasant. He has a very 
rough way with him ; his father's son, you 
know. I don't say he's rude of course, I 
couldn't be expected to stand that but he 
steers very near the wind. No, it's not 
pleasant ; but I tell ye, man, in conscience I 
don't think it would be fair to leave him. 
Mind you, I don't say there's anything actu- 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 201 

ally wrong. What I say is that I don't like 
the looks of it, man ! " and he would press 
the arm of his momentary confidant. 

In the early stages I am persuaded there 
was no malice. He talked but for the pleas- 
ure of airing himself. He was essentially 
glib, as becomes the young advocate, and 
essentially careless of the truth, which is the 
mark of the young ass ; and so he talked at 
random. There was no particular bias, but 
that one which is indigenous and universal, to 
flatter himself and to please and interest the 
present friend. And by thus milling air out 
of his mouth, he had presently built up a 
presentation of Archie which was known and 
talked of in all corners of the county. Wher- 
ever there was a residential house and a 
walled garden, wherever there was a dwarfish 
castle and a park, wherever a quadruple cot- 
tage by the ruins of a peel-tower showed an 
old family going down, and wherever a hand- 
some villa with a carriage approach and a 
^shrubbery marked the coming up of a new 
one probably on the wheels of machinery 
Archie began to be regarded in the light 



202 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

of a dark, perhaps a vicious mystery, and the 
future developments of his career to be 
looked for with uneasiness and confidential 
whispering. He had done something dis- 
graceful, my dear. What, was not precisely 
known, and that good kind young man, Mr. 
Innes, did his best to make light of it. But 
there it was. And Mr. Innes was very anx- 
ious about him now ; he was really uneasy, 
my dear ; he was positively wrecking his own 
prospects because he dared not leave him 
alone. How wholly we all lie at the mercy 
of a single prater, not needfully with any 
malign purpose ! And if a man but talks of 
himself in the right spirit, refers to his virtu- 
ous actions by the way, and never applies to 
them the name of virtue, how easily his evi- 
dence is accepted in the court of public 
opinion. 

All this while, however, there was a more 
poisonous ferment at work between the two 
lads, which came late indeed to the surface, 
but had modified and magnified their dissen- 
sions from the first. To an idle, shallow, 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 203 

easy-going customer like Frank, the smell of 
a mystery was attractive. It gave his mind 
something to play with, like a new toy to a 
child ; and it took him on the weak side, for 
like many young men coming to the Bar, and 
before they have been tried and found want- 
ing, he flattered himself he was a fellow of 
unusual quickness and penetration. They 
knew nothing of Sherlock Holmes in these 
days, but there was a good deal said of Talley- 
rand. And if you could have caught Frank 
off his guard, he would have confessed with 
a smirk that, if he resembled anyone, it was 
the Marquis de Talleyrand-Perigord. It was 
on the occasion of Archie's first absence that 
this interest took root. It was vastly deep- 
ened when Kirstie resented his curiosity at 
breakfast, and that same afternoon there 
occurred another scene which clinched the 
business. He was fishing Swingleburn, Archie 
accompanying him, when the latter looked at 
his watch. 

" Well, good-bye," said he. " I have 
something to do. See you at dinner." 



204 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

" Don't be in such a hurry," cries Frank. 
" Hold on till I get my rod up. I'll go with 
you ; I 'm sick of flogging this ditch." 

And he began to reel up his line. 

Archie stood speechless. He took a long 
while to recover his wits under this direct 
attack ; but by the time he was ready with 
his answer, and the angle was almost packed 
up, he had become completely Weir, and the 
hanging face gloomed on his young shoulders. 
He spoke with a laboured composure, a 
laboured kindness even ; but a child could 
see that his mind was made up. 

" I beg your pardon, Innes ; I don't want 
to be disagreeable, but let us understand one 
another from the beginning. When I want 
your company, I '11 let you know." 

" Oh !" cries Frank, " you don't want my 
company, don't you ? " 

" Apparently not just now," replied 
Archie. " I even indicated to you when I 
did, if you '11 remember and that was at 
dinner. If we two fellows are to live to- 
gether pleasantly and I see no reason why 
we should not it can only be by respecting 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 205 

each other's privacy. If we begin intrud- 
ing " 

" Oh, come ! I '11 take this at no man's 
hands. Is this the way you treat a guest 
and an old friend ? " cried Innes. 

" Just go home and think over what I said 
by yourself," continued Archie, " whether 
it 's reasonable, or whether it 's really offen- 
sive or not ; and let 's meet at dinner as 
though nothing had happened. I '11 put it 
this way, if you like that I know my own 
character, that I 'm looking forward (with 
great pleasure, I assure you) to a long visit 
from you, and that I 'm taking precautions at 
the first. I see the thing that we that I, 
if you like might fall out upon, and I step 
in and obsto prindpiis. I wager you five pounds 
you '11 end by seeing that I mean friendliness, 
and I assure you, Francie, I do," he added, 
relenting. 

Bursting with anger, but Incapable of 
speech, Innes shouldered his rod, made a 
gesture of farewell, and strode off down the 
burn-side. Archie watched him go with- 
out moving. He was sorry, but quite un- 



206 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

ashamed. He hated to be inhospitable, but 
in one thing he was his father's son. He 
had a strong sense that his house was his 
own and no man else's ; and to lie at a 
guest's mercy was what he refused. He 
hated to seem harsh. But that was Frank's 
look-out. If Frank had been commonly dis- 
creet, he would have been decently cour- 
teous. And there was another consideration. 
The secret he was protecting was not his 
own merely j it was hers ; it belonged to 
that inexpressible she who was fast taking 
possession of his soul, and whom he would 
soon have defended at the cost of burning 
cities. By the time he had watched Frank 
as far as the Swingleburnfoot, appearing and 
disappearing in the tarnished heather, still 
stalking at a fierce gait but already dwindled 
in the distance into less than the smallness of 
Lilliput, he could afford to smile at the 
occurrence. Either Frank would go, and 
that would be a relief or he would con- 
tinue to stay, and his host must continue to 
endure him. And Archie was now free 
by devious paths, behind hillocks and in the 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 207 

hollow of burns to make for the trysting- 
place where Kirstie, cried about by the curlew 
and the plover, waited and burned for his 
coming by the Covenanter's stone. 

Innes went off down-hill in a passion of 
resentment, easy to be understood, but which 
yielded progressively to the needs of his situ- 
ation. He cursed Archie for a cold-hearted, 
unfriendly, rude dog; and himself still 
more passionately for a fool in having come 
to Hermiston when he might have sought 
refuge in almost any other house in Scotland, 
but the step once taken was practically irre- 
trievable. He had no more ready money to 
go anywhere else ; he would have to borrow 
from Archie the next club-night; and ill as 
he thought of his host's manners, 1 he was 
sure of his practical generosity. Frank's 
resemblance to Talleyrand strikes me as im- 
aginary ; but at least not Talleyrand himself 
could have more obediently taken his lesson 
from the facts. He met Archie at dinner 
without resentment, almost with cordiality. 
You must take your friends as you find them, 
he would have said. Archie couldn't help 



2o8 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

being his father's son, or his grandfather's, 
the hypothetical weaver's, grandson. The 
son of a hunks, he was still a hunks at 
heart, incapable of true generosity and con- 
sideration ; but he had other qualities with 
which Frank could divert himself in the 
meanwhile, and to enjoy which it was nec- 
essary that Frank should keep his temper. 

So excellently was it controlled that he 
awoke next morning with his head full of a 
different, though a cognate subject. What 
was Archie's little game ? Why did he shun 
Frank's company? What was he keeping 
secret? Was he keeping tryst with some- 
body, and was it a woman ? It would be a 
good joke and a fair revenge to discover. 
To that task he set himself with a great deal 
of patience, which might have surprised his 
friends, for he had been always credited not 
with patience so much as brilliancy ; and 
little by little, from one point to another, he 
at last succeeded in piecing out the situation. 
First he remarked that, although Archie set 
out in all the directions of the compass, he 
always came home again from some point 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 209 

between the south and west. From the 
study of a map, and in consideration of the 
great expanse of untenanted moorland run- 
ning in that direction towards the sources of 
the Clyde, he laid his finger on Cauldstanes- 
lap and two other neighbouring farms, Kings- 
muirs and Polintarf. But it was difficult to 
advance farther. With his rod for a pretext, 
he vainly visited each of them in turn; 
nothing was to be seen suspicious about this 
trinity of moorland settlements. He would 
have tried to follow Archie, had it been the 
least possible, but the nature of the land pre- 
cluded the idea. He did the next best, 
ensconced himself in a quiet corner, and 
pursued his movements with a telescope. It 
was equally in vain, and he soon wearied of 
his futile vigilance, left the telescope at 
home, and had almost given the matter up 
in despair, when, on the twenty-seventh day 
of his visit, he was suddenly confronted with 
the person whom he sought. The first Sun- 
day Kirstie had managed to stay away from 
kirk on some pretext of indisposition, which 
was more truly modesty; the pleasure of 



zio WEIR OF HERMISTON 

beholding Archie seeming too sacred, too 
vivid for that public place. On the two 
following Frank had himself been absent on 
some of his excursions among the neighbour- 
ing families. It was not until the fourth, 
accordingly, that Frank had occasion to set 
eyes on the enchantress. With the first look, 
all hesitation was over. She came with the 
Cauldstaneslap party; then she lived at 
Cauldstaneslap. Here was Archie's secret, 
here was the woman, and more than that 
though I have need here of every manage- 
able attenuation of language with the first 
look, he had already entered himself as rival. 
It was a good deal in pique, it was a little in 
revenge, it was much in genuine admiration : 
the devil may decide the proportions; I can- 
not, and it is very likely that Frank could 
not. 

" Mighty attractive milkmaid," he ob- 
served, on the way home. 

" Who ? " said Archie. 

" O, the girl you 're looking at are n't 
you ? Forward there on the road. She 
came attended by the rustic bard ; presuma- 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 211 

bly, therefore, belongs to his exalted family. 
The single objection ! for the four black 
brothers are awkward customers. If any- 
thing were to go wrong, Gib would gibber, 
and Clem would prove inclement ; and Dand 
fly in danders, and Hob blow up in gobbets. 
It would be a Helliott of a business ! " 

" Very humorous, I am sure," said Archie. 

" Well, I am trying to be so," said Frank. 
" It 's none too easy in this place, and with 
your solemn society, my dear fellow. But 
confess that the milkmaid has found favour 
in your eyes, or resign all claim to be a man 
of taste." 

" It is no matter," returned Archie. 

But the other continued to look at him, 
steadily and quizzically, and his colour slowly 
rose and deepened under the glance, until not 
impudence itself could have denied that he 
was blushing. And at this Archie lost some 
of his control. He changed his stick from 
one hand to the other, and " O, for God's 
sake, don't be an ass ! " he cried. 

" Ass ? That 's the retort delicate with- 
out doubt," says Frank. " Beware of the 



212 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

homespun brothers, dear. If they come into 
the dance, you '11 see who 's an ass. Think 
now, if they only applied (say) a quarter as 
much talent as I have applied to the question 
of what Mr. Archie does with his evening 
hours, and why he is so unaffectedly nasty 
when the subject 's touched on 

" You are touching on it now," interrupted 
Archie with a wince. 

" Thank you. That was all I wanted, an 
articulate confession," said Frank. 

" I beg to remind you " began Archie. 

But he was interrupted in turn. " My 
dear fellow, do n't. It 's quite needless. 
The subject's dead and buried." 

And Frank began to talk hastily on other 
matters, an art in which he was an adept, for 
it was his gift to be fluent on anything or 
nothing. But although Archie had the grace 
or the timidity to suffer him to rattle on, he 
was by no means done with the subject. 
When he came home to dinner, he was 
greeted with a sly demand, how things were 
looking " Cauldstaneslap ways." Frank took 
his first glass of port out after dinner to the 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 213 

toast of Kirstie, and later in the evening he 
returned to the charge again. 

" I say, Weir, you '11 excuse me for re- 
turning again to this affair. I 've been think- 
ing it over, and I wish to beg you very 
seriously to be more careful. It 's not a safe 
business. Not safe, my boy," said he. 

" What ? " said Archie. 

" Well, it 's your own fault if I must put 
a name on the thing ; but really, as a friend, 
I cannot stand by and see you rushing head 
down into these dangers. My dear boy," 
said he, holding up a warning cigar, " con- 
sider ! What is to be the end of it ? " 

" The end of what ? " Archie, helpless 
with irritation, persisted in this dangerous 
and ungracious guard. 

" Well, the end of the milkmaid ; or, to 
speak more by the card, the end of Miss 
Christina Elliott of the Cauldestaneslap ? " 

u I assure you," Archie broke out, " this 
is all a figment of your imagination. There 
is nothing to be said against that young lady ; 
you have no right to introduce her name into 
the conversation." 



214 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

" I '11 make a note of it," said Frank. 
" She shall henceforth be nameless, name- 
less, nameless, Grigalach ! I make a note 
besides of your valuable testimony to her 
character. I only want to look at this thing 
as a man of the world. Admitted she 's an 
angel but, my good fellow, is she a lady ? " 

This was torture to Archie. " I beg 
your pardon," he said, struggling to be com- 
posed, " but because you have wormed your- 
self into my confidence " 

" O, come ! " cried Frank. " Your con- 
fidence ? It was rosy but unconsenting. 
Your confidence, indeed ? Now, look ! 
This is what I must say, Weir, for it con- 
cerns your safety and good character, and 
therefore my honour as your friend. You 
say I wormed myself into your confidence. 
Wormed is good. But what have I done ? 
I have put two and two together, just as the 
parish will be doing to-morrow, and the 
whole of Tweeddale in two weeks, and the 
black brothers well, I won 't put a date on 
that ; it will be a dark and stormy morning. 
Your secret, in other words, is poor Poll's. 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 215 

And I want to ask of you as a friend whether 
you like the prospect ? There are two horns 
to your dilemma, and I must say for myself 
I should look mighty ruefully on either. Do 
you see yourself explaining to the Four Black 
Brothers ? or do you see yourself presenting 
the milkmaid to papa as the future lady of 
of Hermiston ? Do you ? I tell you plainly, 
I don 't ! " 

Archie rose. " I will hear no more of 
this," he said in a trembling voice. 

But Frank again held up his cigar. " Tell 
me one thing first. Tell me if this is not a 
friend's part that I am playing ? " 

" I believe you think it so," replied Archie. 
" I can go as far as that. I can do so much 
justice to your motives. But I will hear no 
more of it. I am going to bed." 

" That 's right Weir," said Frank, heartily. 
" Go to bed and think over it ; and I say, 
man, don 't forget your prayers ! I don 't 
often do the moral don 't go in for that 
sort of thing but when I do there 's one 
thing sure, that I mean it." 

So Archie marched off to bed, and Frank 



216 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

sat alone by the table for another hour or so, 
smiling to himself richly. There was noth- 
ing vindictive in his nature ; but, if revenge 
came in his way, it might as well be good, 
and the thought of Archie's pillow reflec- 
tions that night was indescribably sweet to 
him. He felt a pleasant sense of power. 
He looked down on Archie as on a very 
little boy whose strings he pulled as on a 
horse whom he had backed and bridled by 
sheer power of intelligence, and whom he 
might ride to glory or the grave at pleasure. 
Which was it to be ? He lingered long, rel- 
ishing the details of schemes that he was too 
idle to pursue. Poor cork upon a torrent, 
he tasted that night the sweets of omnipo- 
tence, and brooded like a deity over the 
strands of that intrigue which was to shatter 
him before the summer waned. 



Chapter VIII 

A NOCTURNAL VISIT 

Kirstie had many causes of distress. More 
and more as we grow old and yet more 
and more as we grow old and are women, 
frozen by the fear of age we come to 
rely on the voice as the single outlet of the 
soul. Only thus, in the curtailment of our 
means, can we relieve the straitened cry of 
the passion within us ; only thus, in the bit- 
ter and sensitive shyness of advancing years, 
can we maintain relations with those viva- 
cious figures of the young that still show 
before us and tend daily to become no more 
than the moving wall-paper of life. Talk is 
the last link, the last relation. But with the 
end of the conversation, when the voice 
stops and the bright face of the listener is 
turned away, solitude falls again on the 
bruised heart. Kirstie had lost her "cannie 
217 



2i8 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

hour at e 'en ; " she could no more wander 
with Archie, a ghost if you will but a happy 
ghost, in fields Elysian. And to her it was 
as if the whole world had fallen silent ; to 
him, but an unremarkable change of amuse- 
ments. And she raged to know it. The 
effervescency of her passionate and irritable 
nature rose within her at times to bursting 
point. 

This is the price paid by age for unseason- 
able ardours of feeling. It must have been 
so for Kirstie at any time when the occasion 
chanced ; but it so fell out that she was de- 
prived of this delight in the hour when she 
had most need of it, when she had most to 
say, most to ask, and when she trembled to 
recognize her sovereignty not merely in 
abeyance but annulled. For, with the clair- 
voyance of a genuine love, she had pierced 
the mystery that had so long embarrassed 
Frank. She was conscious, even before it 
was carried out, even on that Sunday night 
when it began, of an invasion of her rights ; 
and a voice told her the invader's name. 
Since then, by arts, by accident, by small 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 219 

things observed, and by the general drift of 
Archie's humour, she had passed beyond all 
possibility of doubt. With a sense of jus- 
tice that Lord Hermiston might have envied, 
she had that day in church considered and 
admitted the attractions of the younger 
Kirstie j and with the profound humanity 
and sentimentality of her nature, she had 
recognised the coming of fate. Not thus 
would she have chosen. She had seen, in 
imagination, Archie wedded to some tall, 
powerful, and rosy heroine of the golden 
locks, made in her own image, for whom 
she would have strewed the bride-bed with 
delight ; and now she could have wept to see 
the ambition falsified. But the gods had 
pronounced, and her doom was otherwise. 

She lay tossing in bed that night, besieged 
with feverish thoughts. There were danger- 
ous matters pending, a battle was toward, 
over the fate of which she hung in jealousy, 
sympathy, fear, and alternate loyalty and dis- 
loyalty to either side. Now she was re-in- 
carnated in her niece, and now in Archie. 
Now she saw, through the girl's eyes, the 



220 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

youth on his knees to her, heard his persua- 
sive instances with a deadly weakness, and 
received his over-mastering caresses. Anon, 
with a revulsion, her temper raged to see 
such utmost favours of fortune and love 
squandered on a brat of a girl, one of her 
own house, using her own name a deadly 
ingredient and that " didnae ken her ain 
mind an' was as black 's your hat." Now 
she trembled lest her deity should plead in 
vain, loving the idea of success for him like 
a triumph of nature ; anon, with returning 
loyalty to her own family and sex, she 
trembled for Kirstie and the credit of the 
Elliotts. And again she had a vision of her- 
self, the day over for her old-world tales and 
local gossip, bidding farewell to her last link 
with life and brightness and love; and be- 
hind and beyond, she saw but the blank butt- 
end where she must crawl to die. Had she 
then come to the lees ? she, so great, so 
beautiful, with a heart as fresh as a girl's and 
strong as womanhood ? It could not be, and 
yet it was so ; and for a moment her bed 
was horrible to her as the sides of the grave. 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 221 

And she looked forward over a waste of 
hours, and saw herself go on to rage, and 
tremble, and be softened, and rage again, 
until the day came and the labours of the day 
must be renewed. 

Suddenly she heard feet on the stairs 
his feet, and soon after the sound of a win- 
dow-sash flung open. She sat up with her 
heart beating. He had gone to his room 
alone, and he had not gone to bed. She 
might again have one of her night cracks ; 
and at the entrancing prospect, a change 
came over her mind ; with the approach of 
this hope of pleasure, all the baser metal 
became immediately obliterated from her 
thoughts. She rose, all woman, and all the 
best of woman, tender, pitiful, hating the 
wrong, loyal to her own sex and all the 
weakest of that dear miscellany, nourishing, 
cherishing next her soft heart, voicelessly 
flattering, hopes that she would have died 
sooner than have acknowledged. She tore 
off her nightcap, and her hair fell about her 
shoulders in profusion. Undying coquetry 
awoke. By the faint light of her nocturnal 



222 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

rush, she stood before the looking-glass, car- 
ried her shapely arms above her head, and 
gathered up the treasures of her tresses. She 
was never backward to admire herself; that 
kind of modesty was a stranger to her na- 
ture ; and she paused, struck with a pleased 
wonder at the sight. " Ye daft auld wife ! " 
she said, answering a thought that was not ; 
and she blushed with the innocent conscious- 
ness of a child. Hastily she did up the mas- 
sive and shining coils, hastily donned a wrap- 
per, and with the rush-light in her hand, 
stole into the hall. Below stairs she heard 
the clock ticking the deliberate seconds, and 
Frank jingling with the decanters in the din- 
ing-room. Aversion rose in her, bitter and 
momentary. " Nesty, tippling puggy!"she 
thought ; and the next moment she had 
knocked guardedly at Archie's door and was 
bidden enter. 

Archie had been looking out into the an- 
cient blackness, pierced here and there with 
a rayless star ; taking the sweet air of the 
moors and the night into his bosom deeply ; 
seeking, perhaps finding, peace after the 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 223 

manner of the unhappy. He turned round 
as she came in, and showed her a pale face 
against the window-frame. 

" Is that you, Kirstie ? " he asked. " Come 
in ! " 

" It 's unco late, my dear," said Kirstie, 
affecting unwillingness. 

"No, no," he answered, "not at all. 
Come in, if you want a crack. I am not 
sleepy, God knows ? " 

She advanced, took a chair by the toilet 
table and the candle, and set the rush-light at 
her foot. Something it might be in the 
comparative disorder of her dress, it might 
be the emotion that now welled in her bosom 
had touched her with a wand of transfor- 
mation, and she seemed young with the 
youth of goddesses. 

" Mr. Erchie," she began, " what 's this 
that's come to ye ? " 

" I am not aware of anything that has 
come," said Archie, and blushed and re- 
pented bitterly that he had let her in. 

" Oh, my dear, that '11 no dae ! " said 
Kirstie. " It 's ill to blind the eyes of love. 



224 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Oh, Mr. Erchie, talc' a thocht ere it 's ower 
late. Ye shouldnae be impatient o' the 
braws o' life, they '11 a' come in their saison, 
like the sun and the rain. Ye 're young 
yet ; ye 've mony cantie years afore ye. 
See and dinnae wreck yersel at the outset 
like sae money ithers ! Hae patience 
they telled me aye that was the owercome o' 
life hae patience, there 's a braw day com- 
ing yet. Gude kens it never cam to me ; 
and here I am wi' nayther man nor bairn to 
ca' my ain, wearying a' folks wi' my ill 
tongue, and you just the first, Mr. Erchie ? " 

" I have a difficulty in knowing what you 
mean," said Archie. 

"Weel, and I'll tell ye," she said. "It's 
just this, that I'm feared. I'm feared for ye, 
my dear. Remember, your faither is a hard 
man, reaping where he hasnae sowed and gaith- 
ering where he hasnae strawed. It 's easy 
speakin', but mind ! Ye '11 have to look in 
the gurly face o 'm, where it 's ill to 
look, and vain to look for mercy. Ye mind 
me o' a bonny ship pitten oot into the black 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 225 

and gowsty seas ye 're a' safe still sittin' 
quait and crackin' wi' Kirstie in your lown 
chalmer; but whaur will ye be the morn, 
and in whatten horror o' the fearsome tem- 
pest, cryin' on the hills to cover ye ? " 

"Why, Kirstie, you're very enigmatical 
to-night and very eloquent," Archie put 
in. 

" And, my dear Mr. Erchie," she con- 
tinued, with a change of voice, " ye mauna 
think that I canna sympathise wi' ye. Ye 
mauna think that I havena been young 
mysel'. Langsyne, when I was a bit lassie, 
no twenty yet " She paused and sighed. 
" Clean and caller, wi' a fit like the hinney 
bee," she continued. " I was aye big and 
buirdly, ye maun understand ; a bonny figure 
o' a woman, though I say it that suldna 
built to rear bairns braw bairns they suld 
hae been, and grand I would hae likit it ! 
But I was young, dear, wi' the bonny glint 
o' youth in my e'en, and little I dreamed I 'd 
ever be tellin' ye this, an auld, lanely, rudas 
wife ! Weel, Mr. Erchie, there was a lad 



226 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

cam' courtin' me, as was but naetural. 
Mony had come before, and I would nane o' 
them. But this yin had a tongue to wile the 
birds frae the lift and the bees frae the fox- 
glove bells. Deary me, but it 's lang syne. 
Folk have deed sinsyne and been buried, and 
are forgotten, and bairns been born and got 
merrit and got bairns o' their ain. Sinsyne 
woods have been plantit, and have grawn up 
and are bonny trees, and the joes sit in their 
shadow, and sinsyne auld estates have 
changed hands, and there have been wars and 
rumours of wars on the face of the earth. 
And here I 'm still like an auld droopit 
craw lookin' on and craikin' ? But, Mr. 
Erchie, do ye no think that I have mind o' 
it a' still ? I was dwalling then in my 
faither's house ; and it 's a curious thing that 
we were whiles trysted in the Deil's Hags. 
And do ye no think that I have mind of the 
bonny simmer days, the lang miles o' the 
bluid-red heather, the cryin' o' the whaups, 
and the lad and the lassie that was trysted ? 
Do ye no think that I mind how the hilly 
sweetness ran about my hairt. Ay, Mr, 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 227 

Erchie, I ken the way o' it fine do I ken 
the way how the grace o' God takes them 
like Paul of Tarsus, when they think oit 
least, and drives the pair o' them into a land 
which is like a dream, and the world and the 
folks in 't are nae mair than clouds to the 
puir lassie, and Heeven nae mair than win- 
dle-straes, if she can but pleesure him ! 
Until Tarn deed that was my story," she 
broke off to say, " he deed, and I wasna at 
the buryin'. But while he was here, I could 
take care o' mysel'. And can yon puir 
lassie ? " 

Kirstie, her eyes shining with unshed tears, 
stretched out her hand towards him appeal- 
ingly ; the bright and the dull gold of her 
hair flashed and smouldered in the coils be- 
hind her comely head, like the rays of an 
eternal youth ; the pure colour had risen in 
her face ; and Archie was abashed alike by 
her beauty and her story. He came towards 
her slowly from the window, took up her 
~hand in his and kissed it. 

u Kirstie," he said hoarsely, " you have 
misjudged me sorely. I have always thought 



228 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

of her, I wouldna harm her for the universe, 
my woman ? " 

" Eh, lad, and that 's easy sayin'," cried 
Kirstie, " but it 's nane sae easy doin' ! Man, 
do ye no comprehend that it 's God's wull 
we should be blendit and glamoured, and 
have nae command over our ain members at 
a time like that ? My bairn," she cried, still 
holding his hand, " think o' the puir lass ! 
have pity upon her, Erchie ! and O, be wise 
for twa ? Think o' the risk she rins ! I 
have seen ye and what 's to prevent ithers ? 
I saw ye once in the Hags, in my ain howl, 
and I was wae to see ye there in pairt for 
the omen, for I think there 's a weird on the 
place and in pairt for pure nakit envy and 
bitterness o' hairt. It 's strange ye should 
forgather there tae ! God ! but yon puir, 
thrawn, auld Covenanter's seen a heap o' 
human natur since he lookit his last on the 
musket barrels, if he never saw nane afore," 
she added with a kind of wonder in her eyes. 

" I swear by my honour I have done her 
no wrong," said Archie. " I swear by my 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 229 

honour and the redemption of my soul that 
there shall none be done her. I have heard 
of this before. I have been foolish, Kirstie, 
not unkind and, above all, not base." 

" There 's my bairn ! " said Kirstie, rising. 
" I '11 can trust ye noo, I '11 can gang to my 
bed wi' an easy hairt." And then she saw 
in a flash how barren had been her triumph. 
Archie had promised to spare the girl, and he 
would keep it ; but who had promised to 
spare Archie ? What was to be the end of 
it ? Over a maze of difficulties she glanced, 
and saw, at the end of every passage, the 
flinty countenance of Hermiston. And a 
kind of horror fell upon her at what she had 
done. She wore a tragic mask. " Erchie, 
the Lord peety you, dear, and peety me ! I 
have buildit on this foundation," laying 
her hand heavily on his shoulder "and 
buildit hie, and pit my hairt in the buildin' of 
it. If the hale hypothec were to fa', I think, 
laddie, I would dee ! Excuse a daft wife 
that loves ye, and that kenned your mither. 
And for His name's sake keep yersel' frae 



230 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

inordinate desires ; baud your heart in baith 
your hands, carry it canny and laigh ; dinna 
send it up like a bairn's kite into the collies- 
hangie o' the wunds? Mind, Maister Erchie 
dear, that this life's a' disappointment, and a 
mouthfu' o' mools is the appointed end." 

" Ay, but Kirstie, my woman, you 're 
asking me ower much at last," said Archie, 
profoundly moved, and lapsing into the broad 
Scots. " Ye 're asking what nae man can 
grant ye, what only the Lord of heaven can 
grant ye if He see fit. Ay ! And can even 
He ? I can promise ye what I shall do, and 
you can depend on that. But how I shall 
feel my woman, that is long past thinking 
of!" 

They were both standing by now oppo- 
site each other. The face of Archie wore 
the wretched semblance of a smile ; hers was 
convulsed for a moment. 

" Promise me ae thing," she cried, in a 
sharp voice. " Promise me ye '11 never do 
naething without telling me." 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 231 

" No, Kirstie, I canna promise ye that," 
he replied. " I have promised enough, God 
kens ! " 

" May the blessing of God lift and rest 
upon ye, dear ! " she said. 

" God bless ye, my old friend," said he. 



Chapter IX 
AT THE WEAVER'S STONE 

It was late in the afternoon when Archie 
drew near by the hill path to the Pray- 
ing Weaver's stone. The Hags were in 
shadow. But still, through the gate of the 
Slap, the sun shot a last arrow, which sped 
far and straight across the surface of the 
moss, here and there touching and shining 
on a tussock, and lighted at length on the 
gravestone and the small figure awaiting 
him there. The emptiness and solitude of 
the great moors seemed to be concentred 
there, and Kirstie pointed out by that figure 
of sunshine for the only inhabitant. His 
first sight of her was thus excruciatingly 
sad, like a glimpse of a world from which 
all light, comfort, and society were on the 
point of vanishing. And the next moment, 
when she had turned her face to him and 
232 



AT THE WEAVER'S STONE 233 

the quick smile had enlightened it, the whole 
face of nature smiled upon him in her smile 
of welcome. Archie's slow pace was quick- 
ened ; his legs hasted to her though his heart 
was hanging back. The girl, upon her side, 
drew herself together slowly and stood up, 
expectant ; she was all languor, her face was 
gone white; her arms ached for him, her 
soul was on tip-toes. But he deceived her, 
pausing a few steps away, not less white 
than herself, and holding up his hand with 
a gesture of denial. 

" No, Christina, not to-day," he said. 
" To-day I have to talk to you seriously. 
Sit ye down, please, there where you were. 
Please ! " he repeated. 

The revulsion of feeling in Christina's 
heart was violent. To have longed and 
waited these weary hours for him, rehears- 
ing her endearments to have seen him at 
last come to have been ready there, breath- 
less, wholly passive, his to do what he would 
with and suddenly to have found herself 
confronted with a grey-faced, harsh school- 
master it was too rude a shock. She 



234 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

could have wept, but pride withheld her. 
She sat down on the stone, from which she 
had arisen, part with the instinct of obedi- 
ence, part as though she had been thrust 
there. What was this ? Why was she 
rejected ? Had she ceased to please ? She 
stood here offering her wares, and he would 
none of them ! And yet they were all his ! 
His to take and keep, not his to refuse 
though ! In her quick petulant nature, a 
moment ago on fire with hope, thwarted 
love and wounded vanity wrought. The 
schoolmaster that there is in all men, to 
the despair of all girls and most women, 
was now completely in possession of Archie. 
He had passed a night of sermons ; a day of 
reflection ; he had come wound up to do 
his duty ; and the set mouth, which in him 
only betrayed the effort of his will, to her 
seemed the expression of an averted heart. 
It was the same with his constrained voice 
and embarrassed utterance; and if so if 
it was all over the pang of the thought 
took away from her the power of think- 
ing. 



AT THE WEAVER'S STONE 235 

He stood before her some way off. 
" Kirstie, there's been too much of this. 
We've seen too much of each other." She 
looked up quickly and her eyes contracted. 
" There 's no good ever comes of these secret 
meetings. They're not frank, not honest 
truly, and I ought to have seen it. People 
have begun to talk ; and it 's not right of me. 
Do you see ? " 

" I see somebody will have been talking 
to ye," she said sullenly. 

"They have, more than one of them," 
replied Archie. 

" And whae were they ? " she cried. 
"And what kind o' love do ye ca' that, 
that's ready to gang round like a whirligig 
at folk talking ? Do ye think they havena 
talked to me ? " 

" Have they indeed ? " said Archie, with 
a quick breath. "That is what I feared. 
Who were they? Who has dared " 

Archie was on the point of losing his 
temper. 

As a matter of fact, not any one had 
talked to Christina on the matter; and she 



236 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

strenuously repeated her own first question 
in a panic of self-defence. 

"Ah, well! what does it matter?" he 
said. " They were good folk that wished 
well to us, and the great affair is that there 
are people talking. My dear girl, we have 
to be wise. We must not wreck our lives 
at the outset. They may be long and happy 
yet, and we must see to it, Kirstie, like 
God's rational creatures and not like fool 
children. There is one thing we must see to 
before all. You 're worth waiting for, Kirstie ! 
worth waiting for a generation ; it would be 
enough reward." And here he remembered 
the schoolmaster again, and very unwisely 
took to following wisdom. " The first thing 
that we must see to, is that there shall be no 
scandal about for my father's sake. That 
would ruin all ; do ye no see that ? " 

Kirstie was a little pleased, there had been 
some show of warmth of sentiment in what 
Archie had said last. But the dull irritation 
still persisted in her bosom ; with the abo- 
riginal instinct, having suffered herself, she 
wished to make Archie suffer. 



AT THE WEAVER'S STONE 237 

And besides, there had come out the word 
she had always feared to hear from his lips, 
the name of his father. It is not to be sup- 
posed that, during so many days with a love 
avowed between them, some reference had 
not been made to their conjoint future. It 
had in fact been often touched upon, and 
from the first had been the sore point. Kirstie 
had wilfully closed the eye of thought ; she 
would not argue even with herself; gallant, 
desperate little heart, she had accepted the 
command of that supreme attraction like the 
call of fate and marched blindfold on her 
doom. But Archie, with his masculine sense 
of responsibility, must reason ; he must dwell 
on some future good, when the present good 
was all in all to Kirstie ; he must talk and 
talk lamely, as necessity drove him of what 
was to be. Again and again he had touched 
on marriage; again and again been driven 
back into indistinctness by a memory of 
Lord Hermiston. And Kirstie had been 
swift to understand and quick to choke down 
and smother the understanding ; swift to leap 
up in flame at a mention of that hope, which 



238 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

spoke volumes to her vanity and her love, 
that she might one day be Mrs. Weir of 
Hermiston ; swift, also, to recognise in his 
stumbling or throttled utterance the death- 
knell of these expectations, and constant, 
poor girl ! in her large-minded madness, to 
go on and to reck nothing of the future. 
But these unfinished references, these blinks 
in which his heart spoke, and his memory 
and reason rose up to silence it before the 
words were well uttered, gave her unqualifi- 
able agony. She was raised up and dashed 
down again bleeding. The recurrence of the 
subject forced her, for however short a time, 
to open her eyes on what she did not wish to 
see; and it had invariably ended in another 
disappointment. So now again, at the mere 
wind of its coming, at the mere mention of his 
father's name who might seem indeed to 
have accompanied them in their whole moor- 
land courtship, an awful figure in a wig with 
an ironical and bitter smile, present to guilty 
consciousness she fled from it head down. 

" Ye havena told me yet," she said, " who 
was it spoke ? " 



AT THE WEAVER'S STONE 239 

" Your aunt for one," said Archie. 

" Auntie Kirstie ? " she cried. " And what 
do I care for my Auntie Kirstie ? " 

" She cares a great deal for her niece," 
replied Archie, in kind reproof. 

"Troth, and it's the first I've heard of 
it," retorted the girl. 

" The question here is not who it is, 
but what they say, what they have noticed," 
pursued the lucid schoolmaster. "That 
is what we have to think of in self-de- 
fence." 

" Auntie Kirstie, indeed ! A bitter, thrawn 
auld maid that's fomented trouble in the 
country before I was born, and will be doing 
it still, I daur say, when I'm deid ! It's in 
her nature; it's as natural for her as it's for 
a sheep to eat." 

" Pardon me, Kirstie, she was not the 
only one," interposed Archie. " I had two 
warnings, two sermons, last night, both most 
kind and considerate. Had you been there, 
I promise you you would have grat, my 
dear ! And they opened my eyes. I saw 
we were going a wrong- way." 



240 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

" Who was the other one ? " Kirstie 
demanded. 

By this time Archie was in the condition 
of a hunted beast. He had come, braced 
and resolute ; he was to trace out a line 
of conduct for the pair of them in a few 
cold, convincing sentences ; he had now been 
there some time, and he was still staggering 
round the outworks and undergoing what he 
felt to be a savage cross-examination. 

" Mr. Frank ! " she cried. " What nex', 
I would like to ken ? " 

" He spoke most kindly and truly." 

" What like did he say ? " 

" I am not going to tell you ; you have 
nothing to do with that," cried Archie, 
startled to find he had admitted so much. 

" O, I have naething to do with it!" she 
repeated, springing to her feet. "A'body at 
Hermiston 's free to pass their opinions upon 
me, but I have naething to do wi' it ! Was 
this at prayers like? Did ye ca' the grieve 
into the consultation ? Little wonder if 
a'body 's talking, when ye make a'body ye're 
confidants! But as you say, Mr. Weir, 



AT THE WEAVER'S STONE 241 

most kindly, most considerately, most truly, 
I 'm sure, I have naething to do with it. 
And I think I'll better be going. I'll be 
wishing you good evening, Mr. Weir." 
And she made him a stately curtsey, shak- 
ing as she did so from head to foot, with 
the barren ecstasy of temper. 

Poor Archie stood dumbfounded. She had 
moved some steps away from him before he 
recovered the gift of articulate speech. 

"Kirstie!" he cried. "O, Kirstie woman!" 

There was in his voice a ring of appeal, 
a clang of mere astonishment that showed 
the schoolmaster was vanquished. 

She turned round on him. "What do 
ye Kirstie me for ? " she retorted. " What 
have ye to do wi' me ? Gang to your ain 
freends and deave them ! " 

He could only repeat the appealing 
" Kirstie ! " 

" Kirstie, indeed ! " cried the girl, her eyes 
blazing in her white face. " My name is 
Miss Christina Elliott, I would have ye to 
ken, and I daur ye to ca' me out of it. If 
I canna get love, I'll have respect, Mr. 



242 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Weir. I 'm come of decent people, and I '11 
have respect. What have I done that ye 
should lightly me ? What have I done ? 
What have I done ? O, what have I 
done ? " and her voice rose upon the third 
repetition. "I thocht I thocht I thocht 
I was sae happy ! " and the first sob broke 
from her like the paroxysm of some mortal 
sickness. 

Archie ran to her. He took the poor 
child in his arms, and she nestled to his 
breast as to a mother's, and clasped him 
in hands that were strong like vices. He 
felt her whole body shaken by the throes 
of distress, and had pity upon her beyond 
speech. Pity, and at the same time a 
bewildered fear of this explosive engine in 
his arms, whose works he did not under- 
stand, and yet had been tampering with. 
There arose from before him the curtains 
of boyhood, and he saw for the first time 
the ambiguous face of woman as she is. In 
vain he looked back over the interview ; he 
saw not where he had offended. It seemed 
unprovoked, a wilful convulsion of brute 
nature. 



Editorial Note 

With the words last printed, "a wilful convul- 
sion of brute nature," the romance of Weir of 
Hermiston breaks off. They were dictated, I 
believe, on the very morning of the writer's 
sudden seizure and death. Weir of Hermiston 
thus remains in the work of Stevenson what 
Edwin Drood is in the work of Dickens or 
Denis Duval in that of Thackeray : or rather it 
remains relatively more, for if each of those frag- 
ments holds an honourable place among its author's 
writings, among Stevenson's the fragment of 
Weir holds certainly the highest. 

Readers may be divided in opinion on the ques- 
tion whether they would or they would not wish 
to hear more of the intended course of the story 
and destinies of the characters. To some, silence 
may seem best, and that the mind should be left to 
its own conjectures as to the sequel, with the help 
of such indications as the text affords. I confess 
that this is the view which has my sympathy. But 
since others, and those almost certainly a majority, 
243 



244 W E IR OF HERMISTON 

are anxious to be told all they can, and since edi- 
tors and publishers join in the request, I can 
scarce do otherwise than comply. The intended 
argument, then, so far as it was known at the 
time of the writer's death to his step-daughter and 
devoted amanuensis, Mrs. Strong, was nearly as 
follows : 

Archie persists in his good resolution of avoiding 
further conduct compromising to young Kirstie's 
good name. Taking advantage of the situation 
thus created, and of the girl's unhappiness and 
wounded vanity, Frank Innes pursues his purpose 
of seduction ; and Kirstie, though still caring for 
Archie in her heart, allows herself to become 
Frank's victim. Old Kirstie is the first to per- 
ceive something amiss with her, and believing 
Archie to be the culprit, accuses him, thus making 
him aware for the first time that mischief has hap- 
pened. He does not at once deny the charge, but 
seeks out and questions young Kirstie, who con- 
fesses the truth to him ; and he, still loving her, 
promises to protect and defend her in her trouble. 
He then has an interview with Frank Innes on 
the moor, which ends in a quarrel, and in Archie 
killing Frank beside the Weaver's Stone. Mean- 
while the Four Black Brothers, having become aware 



EDITORIAL NOTE 245 

of their sister's betrayal, are bent on vengeance 
against Archie as her supposed seducer. They 
are about to close in upon him with this purpose, 
when he is arrested by the officers of the law for 
the murder of Frank. He is tried before his own 
father, the Lord Justice-Clerk, found guilty, and 
condemned to death. Meanwhile the elder Kirstie, 
having discovered from the girl how matters really 
stand, informs her nephews of the truth : and they, 
in a great revujsion of feeling in Archie's favour, 
determine on an action after the ancient manner of 
their house. They gather a following, and after a 
great fight break the prison where Archie lies con- 
fined, and rescue him. He and young Kirstie 
thereafter escape to America. But the ordeal of 
taking part in the trial of his own son has been too 
much for the Lord Justice- Clerk, who dies of the 
shock. " I do not know," adds the amanuensis, 
" what becomes of old Kirstie, but that character 
grew and strengthened so in the writing that I am 
sure he had some dramatic destiny for her." 

The plan of every imaginative work is subject, 
of course, to change under the artist's hand as he 
carries it out ; and not merely the character of the 
elder Kirstie, but other elements of the design no 
less, might well have deviated from the lines 



246 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

originally traced. It seems certain, however, that 
the next stage in the relations of Archie and the 
younger Kirstie would have been as above fore- 
shadowed ; this conception of the lover's uncon- 
ventional chivalry and unshaken devotion to his 
mistress after her fault is very characteristic of the 
author's mind. The vengeance to be taken on 
the seducer beside the Weaver's Stone is prepared 
for in the first words of the Introduction : while 
the situation and fate of the judge, confronting like 
a Brutus, but unable to survive, the duty of send- 
ing his own son to the gallows, seems clearly to 
have been destined to furnish the climax and essen- 
tial tragedy of the tale. How this circumstance 
was to have been brought about within the limits 
of legal usage and social possibility, seems hard 
to conjecture ; but it was a point to which the 
author had evidently given careful consideration. 
Mrs. Strong says simply that the Lord Justice- 
Clerk, like an old Roman, condemns his son to 
death ; but I am assured on the best legal authority 
of Scotland, that no judge, however powerful either 
by character or office, could have insisted on pre- 
siding at the trial of a near kinsman of his own. 
The Lord Justice-Clerk was head of the criminal 
justiciary of the country ; he might have insisted 
on his right of being present on the bench when 



EDITORIAL NOTE 247 

his son was tried ; but he would never have been 
allowed to preside or to pass sentence. Now in a 
letter of Stevenson's to Mr. Baxter, of October 
1892, I find him asking for materials in terms 
which seem to indicate that he knew this quite 
well: "I wish Pitcairn's 'Criminal Trials,' 
quant primum. Also an absolutely correct text of 
the Scots judiciary oath. Also, in case Pitcairn 
does not come down late enough, I wish as full 
a report as possible of a Scots murder trial between 
17901820. Understand the fullest possible. Is 
there any book which would guide me to the 
following facts? The Justice-Clerk tries some 
people capitally on circuit. Certain evidence crop- 
ping up, the charge is transferred to the Justice- 
Clerk's own son. Of course in the next trial the 
Justice-Clerk is excluded, and the case is called 
before the Lord Justice-General. Where would this 
trial have to be ? I fear in Edinburgh, which would 
not suit my view. Could it be again at the circuit 
town ? ' ' The point was referred to a quondam 
fellow-member with Stevenson of the Edinburgh 
Speculative Society, Mr. Graham Murray, the 
present Solicitor-General for Scotland ; whose reply 
was to the effect that there would be no difficulty 
in making the new trial take place at the circuit 
town : that it would have to be held there in spring 



248 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

or autumn, before two Lords of Justiciary ; and that 
the Lord Justice-General would have nothing to do 
with it, this title being at the date in question only 
a nominal one held by a layman (which is no longer 
the case). On this Stevenson writes, "Graham 
Murray's note re the venue was highly satisfactory, 
and did me all the good in the world." The terms 
of his inquiry seem to imply that he intended other 
persons, before Archie, to have fallen first under 
suspicion of the murder ; and also doubtless in 
order to make the rescue by the Black Brothers 
possible that he wanted Archie to be imprisoned 
not in Edinburgh but in the circuit town. But 
they do not show how he meant to get over the 
main difficulty, which at the same time he fully 
recognises. Can it have been that Lord Hermis- 
ton's part was to have been limited to presiding at 
the first trial, where the evidence incriminating 
Archie was unexpectedly brought forward, and to 
directing that the law should take its course ? 

Whether the final escape and union of Archie 
and Christina would have proved equally essential 
to the plot may perhaps to some readers seem 
questionable. They may rather feel that a tragic 
destiny is foreshadowed from the beginning for all 
concerned, and is inherent in the very conditions 
of the tale. But on this point, and other matters 



EDITORIAL NOTE 249 

of general criticism connected with it, I find an 
interesting discussion by the author himself in his 
correspondence. Writing to Mr. J. M. Barrie, 
under date November I, 1892, and criticising that 
author's famous story of The Little Minister, 
Stevenson says : 

" Your descriptions of your dealings with Lord 
Rintoul are frightfully unconscientious. . . . The 
Little Minister ought to have ended badly ; we all 
know it did, and we are infinitely grateful to you 
far the grace and good feeling with which you have 
lied about it. If you had told the truth, I for one 
could never have forgiven you. As you had con- 
ceived and written the earlier parts, the truth about 
the end, though indisputably true to fact, would 
have been a lie, or what is worse, a discord in art. 
If you are going to make a book end badly, it must 
end badly from the beginning. Now, your book 
began to end well. You let yourself fall in love 
with, and fondle, and smile at your puppets. Once 
you had done that, your honour was committed 
at the cost of truth to life you were bound to save 
them. It is the blot on Richard Feverel for in- 
stance, that it begins to end well ; and then tricks 
you and ends ill. But in this case, there is worse 
behind, for the ill ending does not inherently issue 
from the plot the story had, in fact, ended well 



250 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

after the great last interview between Richard and 
Lucy and the blind, illogical bullet which smashes 
all has no more to do between the boards than a 
fly has to do with a room into whose open window 
it comes buzzing. It might have so happened ; it 
needed not ; and unless needs must, we have no 
right to pain our readers. I have had a heavy case 
of conscience of the same kind about my Braxfield 
story. Braxfield only his name is Hermiston 
has a son who is condemned to death ; plainly there 
is a fine tempting fitness about this and I meant 
he was to hang. But on considering my minor 
characters, I saw there were five people who would 
in a sense, who must break prison and attempt 
his rescue. They are capable hardy folks too, who 
might very well succeed. Why should they not 
then ? Why should not young Hermiston escape 
clear out of the country ? and be happy, if he could, 
with his but soft ! I will not betray my secret 
nor my heroine. ..." 

To pass, now, from the question how the story 
would have ended to the question how it originated 
and grew in the writer's mind. The character 
of the hero, Weir of Hermiston, is avowedly 
suggested by the historical personality of Robert 
Macqueen, Lord Braxfield. This famous judge 
has been for generations the subject of a hundred 



EDITORIAL NOTE 251 

Edinburgh tales and anecdotes. Readers of Ste- 
venson's essay on the Raeburn exhibition, in 
Virginibus Puerisque, .will remember how he is 
fascinated by Raeburn' s portrait of Braxfield, even 
as Lockhart had been fascinated by a different por- 
trait of the same worthy sixty years before (see 
Peter 1 s Letters to His Kinsfolk'} ; nor did his 
interest in the character diminish in later life. 

Again, the case of a judge involved by the 
exigencies of his office in a strong conflict between 
public duty and private interest or affection, was one 
which had always attracted and exercised Steven- 
son's imagination. In the days when he and 
Mr. Henley were collaborating with a view to the 
stage, Mr. Henley once proposed a plot founded 
on the story of Mr. Justice Harbottle in Sheridan 
Le Fanu's In a Glass Darkly, in which the 
wicked judge goes headlong per fas et nefas to his 
object of getting the husband of his mistress hanged. 
Some time later Stevenson and his wife together 
wrote a play called The Hanging Judge. In this, 
the title character is tempted for the first time in 
his life to tamper with the course of justice, in 
order to shield his wife from persecution by a 
former husband who reappears after being supposed 
dead. Bulwer's novel of Paul Clifford, with its 
final situation of the worldly-minded judge, Sir 



252 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

William Brandon, learning that the highwayman 
whom he is in the act of" sentencing is his own 
son, and dying of the knowledge, was also well 
known to Stevenson, and no doubt counted for 
something in the suggestion of the present story. 

Once more, the difficulties often attending the re- 
lation of father and son in actual life had pressed 
heavily on Stevenson's mind and conscience from 
the days of his youth, when in obeying the law of 
his own nature he had been constrained to disap- 
point, distress, and for a time to be much misun- 
derstood by, a father whom he justly loved and 
admired with all his heart. Difficulties of this kind 
he had already handled in a lighter vein once or 
twice in fiction as for instance in the Story of a 
Lie and in The Wrecker before he grappled with 
them in the acute and tragic phase in which they 
occur in the present story. 

These three elements, then, the interest of the 
historical personality of Lord Braxfield, the prob- 
lems and emotions arising from a violent conflict 
between duty and nature in a judge, and the diffi- 
culties due to incompatibility and misunderstanding 
between father and son, lie at the foundations of 
the present story. To touch on minor matters, 
it is perhaps worth notice, as Mr. Henley reminds 
me, that the name of Weir had from of old a spe- 



EDITORIAL NOTE 253 

cial significance for Stevenson's imagination, from 
the traditional fame in Edinburgh of Major Weir, 
burned as a warlock, together with his sister, under 
circumstances of peculiar atrocity. Another name, 
that of the episodical personage of Mr. Torrance 
the minister, is borrowed direct from life, as indeed 
are the whole figure and its surroundings kirk- 
yard, kirk, and manse down even to the black 
thread mittens : witness the following passage from 
a letter of the early seventies : "I've been to 
church and am not depressed a great step. It 
was at that beautiful church [of Glencorse hi the 
Pentlands, three miles from his father's country 
home at Swanston] . It is a little cruciform 
place, with a steep slate roof. The small kirkyard 
is full of old grave- stones ; one of a Frenchman 
from Dunkerque, I suppose he died prisoner in the 
military prison hard by. And one, the most 
pathetic memorial I ever saw : a poor school-slate, 
in a wooden frame, with the inscription cut into it 
evidently by the father's own hand. In church, 
old Mr. Torrance preached, over eighty and a 
relic of times forgotten, with his black thread 
gloves and mild old face." A side hint for a 
particular trait in the character of Mrs. Weir we 
can trace in some family traditions concerning the 
writer's own grandmother, who is reported to have 



254 WEIR F HERMISTON 

valued piety much more than efficiency in her 
domestic servants. The other women characters 
seem, so far as his friends know, to have been pure 
creation, and especially that new and admirable 
incarnation of the eternal feminine in the elder 
Kirstie. The little that he says about her himself 
is in a letter written a few days before his death 
to Mr. Gosse. The allusions are to the various 
moods and attitudes of people in regard to middle 
age, and are suggested by Mr. Gosse' s volume of 
poems, In Russet and Silver. " It seems rather 
funny," he writes, ' that this matter should come 
up just now, as I am at present engaged in treating 
a severe case of middle age in one of my stories, 
The Justice- Clerk. The case is that of a woman, 
and I think I am doing her justice. You will be 
interested, I believe, to see the difference in our 
treatments. Secreta Vitae [the title of one of 
Mr. Gosse' s poems] comes nearer to the case of 
my poor Kirstie." From the wonderful midnight 
scene between her and Archie, we may judge what 
we have lost in those later scenes w'.ere she was 
to have taxed him with the fault that was not his 
to have presently learned his innocence from the 
lips of his supposed victim to have then vindi- 
cated him to her kinsmen and fired them to the 
action of his rescue. The scene of the prison- 



EDITORIAL NOTE 255 

breaking here planned by Stevenson would have 
gained interest (as will already have occurred to 
readers) from comparison with the two famous 
precedents in Scott, the Porteous mob and the 
breaking of Portanferry Jail. 

The best account of Stevenson's methods of 
imaginative work is in the following sentences 
from a letter of his own to Mr. W. Craibe Angus 
of Glasgow : "I am still ' a slow study,' and sit 
for a long while silent on my eggs. Unconscious 
thought, there is the only method : macerate your 
subject, let it boil slow, then take the lid off and 
look in and there your stuff is good or bad." 
The several elements above noted having been left 
to work for many years in his mind, it was in the 
autumn of 1 892 that he was moved to " take the lid 
off and look in," under the influence, it would 
seem, of a special and overmastering wave of that 
feeling for the romance of Scottish scenery and 
character which was at all times so strong in him, 
and which his exile did so much to intensify. I 
quote again from his letter to Mr. Barrie on 
November I in that year : "It is a singular 
thing that I should live here in the South Seas 
under conditions so new and so striking, and yet 
my imagination so continually inhabit the cold old 
huddle of grey hills from which we come. I have 



256 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

finished David Balfour, I have another book on 
the stocks, The Young Chevalier, which is to be 
part in France and part in Scotland, and to deal 
with Prince Charlie about the year 1 749 ; and now 
what have I done but begun a third, which is to be 
all moorland together, and is to have for a centre- 
piece a figure that I think you will appreciate that 
of the immortal Braxfield. Braxfield himself is my 
grand premier or since you are so much involved 
in the British drama, let me say my heavy lead." 

Writing to me at the same date he makes the 
same announcement more briefly, with a list of the 
characters and an indication of the scene and date 
of the story. To Mr. Baxter he writes a month 
later, "I have a novel on the stocks to be called 
The Justice- Clerk. It is pretty Scotch ; the grand 
premier is taken from Braxfield (O, by the by, send 
me Cockburn's Memorials}, and some of the story 
is, well, queer. The heroine is seduced by one 
man, and finally disappears with the other man who 
shot him. . . . Mind you, I expect The Justice- 
Clerk to be my masterpiece. My Braxfield is al- 
ready a thing of beauty and a joy for ever, and so 
far as he has gone far my best character." From 
the last extract it appears that he had already at this 
date drafted some of the earlier chapters of the book. 
He also about the same time composed the dedica- 



EDITORIAL NOTE 257 

tion to his wife, who found it pinned to her bed- 
curtains one morning on awaking. It was always 
his habit to keep several books in progress at the 
same time, turning from one to another as the 
fancy took him, and finding rest in the change of 
labour ; and for many months after the date of this 
letter, first illness, then a voyage to Auckland, 
then work on the Ebb-Tide, on a new tale 
called St. Ives, which was begun during an attack 
of influenza, and on his projected book of family 
history, prevented his making any continuous 
progress with Weir. In August 1893 he says he 
has been recasting the beginning. A year later, 
still only the first four or five chapters had been 
drafted. Then, in the last weeks of his life, he 
attacked the task again, in a sudden heat of inspi- 
ration, and worked at it ardently and without inter- 
ruption until the end came. No wonder if during 
those weeks he was sometimes aware of a tension 
of the spirit difficult to sustain. " How can I 
keep this pitch ? " he is reported to have said after 
finishing one of the chapters. To keep the pitch 
proved indeed beyond his strength ; and that frail 
organism, taxed so long and so unsparingly in 
obedience to his indomitable will, at last betrayed 
him in mid effort. 

There remains one more point to be mentioned, 



258 WEIR OF HERMISTON 

as to the speech and manners of the Hanging Judge 
himself. That these are not a whit exaggerated, 
in comparison with what is recorded of his historic 
prototype, Lord Braxfield, is certain. The locus 
classicus . in regard to this personage is in Lord 
Cockburn's Memorials of bis Time. "Strong built 
and dark, with rough eyebrows, powerful eyes, 
threatening lips, and a low growling voice, he was 
like a formidable blacksmith. His accent and dia- 
lect were exaggerated Scotch ; his language, like 
his thoughts, short, strong, and conclusive. Illit- 
erate and without any taste for any refined enjoy- 
ment, strength of understanding which gave him 
power without cultivation, only encouraged him to 
a more contemptuous disdain of all natures less 
coarse than his own. It may be doubted if he was 
ever so much in his element as when tauntingly 
repelling the last despairing claim of a wretched 
culprit, and sending him to Botany Bay or the 
gallows with an insulting jest. Yet this was not 
from cruelty, for which he was too strong and too 
jovial, but from cherished coarseness." Readers, 
nevertheless, who are at all acquainted with the 
social history of Scotland will hardly fail to have 
made the observation that Braxfield' s is an extreme 
case of eighteenth-century manners, as he himself 
was an eighteenth-century personage (he died in 



EDITORIAL NOTE 259 

1 799 in his seventy-eighth year) ; and that for the 
date in which the story is cast (1814) such man- 
ners are somewhat of an anachronism. During the 
generation contemporary with the French Revolu- 
tion and the Napoleonic wars, or to put it 
another way, the generation that elapsed between 
the days when Scott roamed the country as a 
High School and University student and those 
when he settled in the fulness of fame and pros- 
perity at Abbotsford, or again (the allusions will 
appeal to readers of the admirable Gait) during the 
intervals between the first and the last provostry 
of Bailie Pawkie in the borough of Gudetown, or 
between the earlier and the final ministrations of 
Mr. Balwhidder in the parish of Dalmailing, 
during this period a great softening had taken place 
in Scottish manners generally, and in those of the 
Bar and Bench not least. "Since the death of 
Lord Justice-Clerk Macqueen of Braxfield," says 
Lockhart, writing about 1817, " the whole exterior 
of judicial deportment has been quite altered." A 
similar criticism may probably hold good on the 
picture of border life contained in the chapter con- 
cerning the Four Black Brothers of Cauldstaneslap, 
viz., that it rather suggests the ways of an earlier 
generation ; nor have I any clue to the reasons 
which led Stevenson to choose this particular date, 



z6o WEIR OF HERMISTON 

in the year preceding Waterloo, for a story which, 
in regard to some of its features at least, might 
seem more naturally placed some twenty-five or 
thirty years before. 

If the reader seeks, farther, to know whether the 
scenery of Hermiston can be identified with any 
one special place familiar to the writer's early 
experience, the answer, I think, must be in the 
negative. Rather it is distilled from a number of 
different haunts and associations among the moor- 
lands of southern Scotland. In the dedication and 
in a letter to me he indicates the Lammermuirs as 
the scene of his tragedy, and Mrs. Stevenson (his 
mother) tells me that she thinks he was inspired 
by recollections of a visit paid in boyhood to an 
uncle living at a remote farmhouse in that district 
called Overshiels, in the parish of Stow. But 
although he may have thought of the Lammermuirs 
in the first instance, we have already found him 
drawing his description of the kirk and manse from 
another haunt of his youth, namely, Glencorse in 
the Pentlands. And passages in chapters v. and 
viii. point explicitly to a third district, that is, the 
country bordering upon Upper Tvveeddale and the 
head waters of the Clyde. With this country also 
holiday rides and excursions from Peebles had 
made him familiar as a boy : and this seems cer- 



EDITORIAL NOTE 261 

tainly the most natural scene of the story, if only 
from its proximity to the proper home of the 
Elliotts, which of course is in the heart of the 
Border, especially Teviotdale and Ettrick. Some 
of the geographical names mentioned are clearly 
not meant to furnish literal indications. The 
Spango, for instance, is a water running, I believe, 
not into the Tweed but into the Nith, and Cross- 
michael as the name of a town is borrowed from 
Galloway. 

But it is with the general and essential that the 
artist deals, and questions of strict historical per- 
spective or local definition are beside the mark in 
considering his work. Nor will any reader ex- 
pect, or be grateful for, comment in this place on 
matters which are more properly to the point on 
the seizing and penetrating power of the author's 
ripened art as exhibited in the foregoing pages, the 
wide range of character and emotion over which 
he sweeps with so assured a hand, his vital poetry 
of vision and magic of presentment. Surely no 
son of Scotland has died leaving with his last 
breath a worthier tribute to the land he loved. 

SIDNEY COLVIN. 



Glossary 



ae, one. 

antinomian, one of a sect which 
holds that under the gospel 
dispensation the moral law is 
not obligatory. 

Auld Hornie, the Devil. 

ballant, ballad. 

bauchles, brogues, old shoes. 

bees in their bonnet, fads. 

birling, whirling. 

black-a-vised, dark - complex- 
toned. 

bonnet-laird, small landed pro- 
prietor. 

bool, ball. 

brae, rising ground. 

butt end, end of a cottage. 

byre, cow-bouse. 

ca', drive. 

caller, fresh. 

canna, cannot. 

canny, careful, shrewd. 

cantie, cheerful. 



carline, an old woman. 
chalmer, chamber. 
claes, clothes. 
clamjamfry, crowd. 
clavers, idle talk. 
cock-laird, a yeoman. 
collieshangie, turmoil. 
crack, to converse. 
cuddy, donkey. 
cuist, cast. 
cutty, slut. 

daft, mad, frolicsome. 

dander, to saunter. 

danders, cinders. 

daurna, dare not. 

deave, to deafen. 

demmy brokens, demi-bro- 
quins. 

dirdum, vigour. 

disjaskit, worn out, disrepu- 
table looking. 

doer, law agent. 

dour, bard. 

drumlie, dark. 



263 



264 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 



dunting, knocking. 

dule-tree, the tree of lamenta- 
tion, the banging tree: dule 
is also Scots for boundary, 
and it may mean the boun- 
dary tree, the tree on which 
the baron bung interlopers. 

dwaibly, infirm, rickety. 

earrand, errand. 
ettercap, -vixen. 

fechting, fighting. 

feck, quantity, portion. 

feckless, feeble, poiuerless. 

fell, strong and fiery. 

fey, unlike yourself, strange, as 
persons are observed to be 
in the hour of approaching 
death or disaster. 

fit, foot. 

flyped, turned up, turned in- 
side out. 

forgather, to fall in with. 

fule, fool. 

fiishionless, pithless, -weak. 

fyle, to soil, to defile. 

fylement, obloquy, defilement. 

gaed, went. 
gey an', -very. 
gigot, leg of mutton. 



girzie, lit. diminutive ofGrizel, 
here a playful nickname. 

glaur, mud. 

glint, glance, sparkle. 

gloaming, tiviligbt. 

glower, to scowl. 

gobbets, small lumps. 

gowden, golden. 

gowsty, gusty. 

grat, -wept. 

grieve, land-steward. 

guddle, to catch fish -with the 
bands by groping under the 
stones or banks. 

guid, good. 

gumption, common sense, judg- 
ment. 

gurley, stormy, surly. 

gyte, beside itself. 

haddit, held. 
hae, have, take. 
hale, 'whole. 
heels-ower-hurdie, heels over 

head. 

hinney, honey. 
hirstle, to bustle. 
hizzie, wench. 
howl, hovel. 
hunkered, crouched. 
hypothec, lit. a term in Scots 

law meaning the security 



GLOSSARY 



265 



given by a tenant to a 
landlord, as furniture, 
produce, etc. ; by metonymy 
and colloquially " the tubole 
structure" " the "whole af- 
fair. ' ' 

idleset, idleness. 

infeftment, a term in Scots 

law originally synonymous 

with investiture. 

jeely-piece, a slice of bread 

and jelly. 
jennipers, juniper. 
jo, sweetheart. 
justifeed, executed, made the 

victim of justice. 
jyle, jail. 

kebbuck, cheese. 
ken, to know. 
kenspeckle, conspicuous. 
kilted, tucked up. 
kyte, belly. 

laigh, low. 

laird, landed proprietor. 

lane, alone. 

lave, rest, remainder. 

lown, lonely, still. 

lynn, cataract. 



macers, officers of the court 
[cf. Guy Mannering, last 
chapter] . 

maun, must. 

menseful, of good manners. 

mirk, dark. 

misbegowk, deception, disap- 
pointment. 

mools, mould, earth. 

muckle, much, great big. 

my lane, by myself. 

nowt, black cattle. 

palmering, walking infirmly. 
panel, in Scots law, the accused 

person in a criminal action, 

the prisoner. 

peel, a fortified watch-tower. 
plew-stilts, plough-handles. 
policy, ornamental grounds of 

a country mansion. 
puddock, frog. 

quean, wench. 

riff-raff, rabble. 
risping, grating. 
rowt, to roar, to rant. 
rowth, abundance. 
rudas, haggard old woman. 
runt, an old cow past breeding, 
opprobriously, an old woman. 



266 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 



sab, sot. 

sanguishes, sandwiches. 
sasine, in Scots law, the act of 
giving legal possession of 
feudal property, or, collo- 
quially, the deed by which 
that possession is proved. 

sclamber, to scramble. 

sculduddery, impropriety, gross- 
ness. 

session, the Court of Session, 
the supreme court of Scot- 
land. 

shauchling, shuffling. 

shoo, to chase gently. 

siller, money. 

sinsyne, since then. 

skailing, dispersing. 

skelp, slap. 

skirling, screaming. 

skreigh-o'-day, daybreak. 

snash, abuse. 

sneisty, supercilious. 

sooth, to hum. 

speir, to ask. 

speldering, sprawling. 

splairge, to splash. 

spunk, spirit, fire. 



steik, to shut. 
sugar-bool, sugar-plum. 

tawpie, a slow foolish slut. 
telling you, a good thing for 

you. 

thir, these. 

thrawn, cross-grained. 
toon, toivn. 
two-names, local sobriquets 

in addition to patronymic. 
tyke, dog. 

unchancy, unlucky. 

unco, strange, extraordinary, 

very. 
upsitten, impertinent. 

vivers, victuals. 

waling, choosing. 
warrandise, -warranty. 
waur, worse. 
weird, destiny. 
whammle, to upset. 
whaup, curlew. 
windlestrae, crested dog's-tail 
grass. 

yin, one. 



THE WORKS OF 

Robert Louis Stevenson 

JUST ISSUED. 
Mr. Stevenson's Unfinished Romance 

Weir of Hermiston, 

Attractively bound. 121110, $1.50. 



STEVENSON S ESTIMATE OF THE STORY AS QUOTED IN 
MRS. STRONG'S DIARY : 

"The story unfolds itself before me to the least detail. 
There is nothing left in doubt. I never felt so before in any- 
thing I ever wrote. It will be ray best work. I feel myself so 
sure in every word. 1 ' 

" Surely no son of Scotland has died, leaving 
with his last breath a worthier tribute to the land 
he loved." SIDNEY COLVIN. 

In no case of an unfinished romance has an author 
left so full a forecast of his intention. Mr. Stevenson 
had outlined to his amanuensis, Mrs. Strong, the 
plot of what remained unwritten, and by her aid 
an editorial note of nearly twenty pages gives it so 
fully that the reader is left in no doubt of the result 
or of the fate of any of the characters. 



WORKS OF ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON. 



JUST PUBLISHED. 

Poems and Ballads. 

By ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON. 

With Portrait. From new plates with artistic cover design. 
12mo, $1.50. 



Lovers of Mr. Stevenson's work will be 
delighted with this dainty and attractively bound 
volume, which comprises all the poems contained 
in "A Child's Garden of Verses," "Ballads," 
"Underwoods," and, in addition, over forty 
pieces of verse written since the publication of 
those volumes. 



*,* Messrs. Charles Scribner s Sons, having recently 
acquired the rights to the publication of the following vol- 
umes, are now the publishers, in this country, of all of Mr. 
Stevenson* s works. 

THE VAILIMA LETTERS. Two vols., i6mo, . . $2.35 

THE EBB TIDE. 16mo 1.35 

THE AMATEUR EniQRANT. 16mo, . . 1.25 

riACAIRH. 16mo, . . . i.oo 



THE WORKS OF 

Robert Louis Stevenson. 

* # * The following -volumes issued in a new uniform 
edition. 23 vols. , 121110, in a box, $28. oo. 



Weir of Hermiston. $150 

Poems and Ballads. With portait, . . 1.50 

Kidnapped. Illustrated, . . . . 1.50 

David Balfour, 1.50 

Treasure Island. With Map, . . . i.oo 
The Wrecker. With Lloyd Osbourne. Illus- 
trated, ....... 1.50 

The Master of Ballantrae. Illustrated, . 1.50 

Prince Otto. A Romance, . . . i.oo 
The Merry Men, and other Tales, and Dr. 

Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, . . . . 1.25 

The Black Arrow. Illustrated, . . 1.25 

New Arabian Nights, . . . . 1.25 

The Dynamiter. With Mrs. Stevenson. Pa- 
per, 300. ; cloth, 1.25 

Island Nights' Entertainments. Illustrated, 1.25 
The Wrong Box. With Lloyd Osbourne. Pa- 
per, 5<Dc. ; cloth 1.25 

Across the Plains, 1.25 

An Inland Voyage i.oo 



WORKS OF ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON. 

Travels with a Donkey, . . . . $i oo 

The Silverado Squatters, .... i.oo 

Familiar Studies of Men and Books, . 1.25 

Virginibus Puerisque, .... 1.25 

Memories and Portraits, .... 1.25 

A Foot -Note to History, . . . . 1.50 

Memoir of Fleeming Jenkin, . . . 1.25 



SPECIAL EDITIONS. 

A Child's Garden of Verses. Profusely Illus- 
trated. i2mo, ...... $1.50 

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 
i2mo, paper, 250. ; cloth, .... i.oo 

The Merry Men, and Other Tales. i2tno, paper, .35 
Virginibus Puerisque. Cameo Edition, i6mo, 1.25 
The Suicide Club. Ivory Series. i6mo, . .75 

Three Plays. Decon Brodie, Beau Austin, Ad- 
miral Guinea. With W. E. Henley. 8vo, net, 2.00 

Ballads. i2mo i.oo 

Underwoods. i2mo, i.oo 

A Child's Garden of Verses. i2mo, . i.oo 



Charles Scribner's Sons, 

153-157 Fifth Avenue, New York. 



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